Ruth Stone
Stone in 2009
Born(1915-06-08)June 8, 1915
DiedNovember 19, 2011(2011-11-19) (aged 96)
  • Poet
  • teacher
  • author
Known forWhat Love Comes To
Awards2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2007 Vermont State Poet, 2002 National Book Award, Whiting Award and two Guggenheim Fellowships[1][2]

Ruth Stone (June 8, 1915 – November 19, 2011) was an American poet, author, and teacher.[3]

Life and career

She was born in Roanoke, Virginia. She raised three daughters alone after her husband, professor Walter Stone, committed suicide in 1959. She wrote that her poems are "love poems, all written to a dead man" whose death caused her to "reside in limbo" with her daughters. For twenty years she traveled the US, teaching creative writing at many universities, including the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, University of California, Davis, Brandeis University, and finally settling at Binghamton University. She died at her home in Ripton, Vermont, on November 19, 2011.[4]

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story about Stone's writing style and inspiration, which she had shared with Gilbert:

As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming . . . 'cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, "run like hell" to the house as she would be chased by this poem.

The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would "continue on across the landscape looking for another poet."

And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it's going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.[5]


Ruth Stone is the author of thirteen books of poetry.[6] She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2002 National Book Award for Poetry (for her collection In the Next Galaxy),[7] the 2002 Wallace Stevens Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Eric Mathieu King Award from The Academy of American Poets, a Whiting Award (with which she bought plumbing for her house), two Guggenheim Fellowships [2][8] (one of which roofed her house), the Delmore Schwartz Award, the Cerf Lifetime Achievement Award from the state of Vermont, and the Shelley Memorial Award. In July 2007, she was named poet laureate of Vermont. Her most recent book of poetry, What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems[9] (Copper Canyon Press, 2008) was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The voice of Ruth Stone reading her poem "Be Serious" is featured in the film, USA The Movie.[10] Paintbrush: A Journal of Poetry and Translation 27 (2000/2001) was devoted entirely to Stone's work. The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize awarded by The Vermont College of Fine Arts and their literary journal Hunger Mountain is in its sixth year.[11] Her work is distinguished by an unusual tendency to draw imagery and language from the natural sciences:

this scientific habit of rendering looms larger, becomes not the whole of Stone's poetic, but an essential component of its complex dynamic. The thematics suggest an ongoing byplay between science and some mode of intellection which is not science ... This is a philosophically serious writer, maybe one of the few instances of a genuinely integrated poetic sensibility we have seen in a very long time.[12]


Stone's long-time residence in Goshen, Vermont was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Her heirs (both literary and family) — including her granddaughter, poet and visual artist Bianca Stone[13] — have established a foundation to convert the property into a writer's retreat.[14]



  1. ^ Times-Argus article Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States. Ed. Cathy N. Davidson and Linda Wagner-Martin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Copper Canyon Press Bio
  4. ^ William Grimes (November 24, 2011). "Ruth Stone, a Poet Celebrated Late in Life, Dies at 96". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity,, Feb 2009.
  6. ^ "Ruth Stone". The Daily Telegraph. London. January 1, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "National Book Awards – 2002". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-08.
    (With acceptance speech by Stone, announcement by Poetry Panel Chair Dave Smith, and essay by Katie Peterson from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  8. ^ Guggenheim Foundation. The Foundation website lists the first fellowship awarded to a recipient, in this case, given to Stone in 1971.
  9. ^ "Copper Canyon Press:: What Love Comes To, poetry by Ruth Stone".
  10. ^ "Ruth Stone". IMDb.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2018-09-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Davis, Adam Brooke. A Green Old Age: The Achievement of Ruth Stone, Paintbrush xxvii (2000/2001) 82-96.
  13. ^ "Riverviews' 'Rebus' exhibit showcases poetry comics". BURG, March 5, 2014 Brent Wells.
  14. ^ "Late Poet Laureate Ruth Stone's Goshen home is coming back to life". Addison Independent. November 28, 2016. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  15. ^ "Poetry". Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-04-08.