Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday's poems: Ruth Stone

'In my 30 years of knowing you
cell by cell in my widow’s shawl,
We have lived together longer
in the discontinuous films of my sleep
than we did in our warm parasitical bodies.'
Ruth Stone
Getting to Know You
"You are a lovely link
in the great chain of being
Think how lucky it is to be born."
Ruth Stone
Thanks to Sam Hamill I have discovered the poetry of  Ruth Stone.

Green Apples
by Ruth Stone

In August we carried the old horsehair mattress

To the back porch

And slept with our children in a row.

The wind came up the mountain into the orchard

Telling me something;

Saying something urgent.

I was happy.

The green apples fell on the sloping roof

And rattled down.

The wind was shaking me all night long;

Shaking me in my sleep

Like a definition of love,

Saying, this is the moment,

Here, now.

Eden, Then and Now
Ruth Stone

In ’29 before the dust storms
sandblasted Indianapolis,
we believed in the milk company.
Milk came in glass bottles.
We spread dye-colored butter,
now connected to cancer.
We worked seven to seven
with no overtime pay;
pledged allegiance every day,
pitied the starving Armenians.
One morning in the midst of plenty,
there were folks out of context,
who were living on nothing.
Some slept in shacks
on the banks of the river.
This phenomenon investors said
would pass away.
My father worked for the daily paper.
He was a union printer;
lead slugs and blue smoke.
He worked with hot lead
at a two-ton machine,
in a low-slung seat;
a green-billed cap
pulled low on his forehead.
He gave my mother a dollar a day.
You could say we were rich.
This was the Jazz Age.
All over the country
the dispossessed wandered
with their hungry children,
harassed by the law.
When the market broke, bad losers
jumped out of windows.
It was time to lay an elegant table,
as it is now; corporate paradise;
the apple before the rot caved in.
It was the same worm
eating the same fruit.
In fact, the same Eden. 

Ruth Stone (1915-2011) lived much of her life in a rural farmhouse in Vermont. Her first book of poetry was published in 1959, the year in which her husband committed suicide. Stone was left a widow with 3 young children to support. Her subsequent poetry was marked by the loss and grief of the suicide. 

Stone wrote about the suicide in a poem March 15 1998:

Tied a silk cord around his meat neck
and hung his meat body,
loved though it was,
in order to insure absolute quiet,
on the back of a rented door in Soho.

Stone also wrote feminist poems about women's lives and experience as well as political poems.

Stone worked as a university teacher of creative writing and visiting poet and was forced to move around universities all over the US to find work. In 1990, aged 75, she became a Professor of English and Creative Writing at State University of New York.

Although Stone's first book of poetry was published in 1959, recognition as a poet came late in her life. Most of her published work did not appear till she was past 70 years of age. She was in her 80's before she became widely recognized for her poetry.

Stone published 13 books of poetry.

The Ruth Stone Foundation was set up to honor her poetry and maintain her house and garden in Vermont.

A piece about Stone written by one of her daughters is here.

Articles about Stone are herehere and here.

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