I had an entirely different post planned, talking about my morning walk to the beach, my new iPhone 4S (it is SWEET!), and Thanksgiving plans. But that changed upon hearing the news poet Ruth Stone has died at age 96.
It was my great pleasure to study with Ruth and Toi Derricotte at Old Dominion University in the late 80s. Her book, Second Hand Coat, was just published during that time. I remember her fiery red hair that went down to the center of her back. I also remember her to be wickedly funny and very nurturing—just what I needed as a young poet. Ruth was a big advocate for writing down poems whenever and wherever they happened. She felt that she didn't write the poems, they moved through her and it was her job to catch them.
After Ruth’s second husband’s suicide, she raised three daughters as a single mother on a farm in Vermont. I remember hearing stories about the hard times when they didn’t have heat or running water. Her life was certainly the meat for her poems, which had elements of science and the natural world. Her husband’s suicide was also a reoccurring theme, as well as aging. Even with her failing eyesight in the later years, she was still writing poems and reciting them from memory.
This morning, I can’t seem to find Second Hand Coat or Simplicity, but I did locate my copy of In the Next Galaxy, for which she won the National Book Award in 1987. Picking up this book is like reaching out to a long, lost friend. In truth, Ruth and I lost touch after college. I’m just thankful for the time our paths crossed for a brief moment in time. She will be missed.