Ruth Stone was a true American original. The winner of the National Book Award at the age of 87, she was still writing extraordinary poetry well into her 90s. Born in Virginia in 1915, she lived in rural Vermont for much of her life. In 1959, after her husband committed suicide, she had to raise their family alone, all the time writing what she called her ‘love poems, all written to a dead man’ who forced her to 'reside in limbo' with her three daughters. She died in 2011, aged 96.
Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed her in Vermont in September 2008 and again in September 2009. By the time of our two visits, when she was 93 and 94, Ruth had almost lost her sight, but still knew many poems by heart, especially ones from earlier books, while declaring she had never learned them, and that she never composed them either, she just had to grab them when they came to her. Unable to live on her own by then, she was staying with her daughter Marcia Croll in nearby Ripton, where we filmed her on our first visit, but when we returned the following September, we were able to film her sitting in her favourite chair on the porch of the old house at Goshen. The filming conditions were far from ideal, with sudden changes of light and cars roaring past on the dirt road outside, but we think the film’s technical flaws are more than compensated for by Ruth’s extraordinary presence, her vitality, truth-telling and being.
This film supersedes an earlier, shorter version posted on Vimeo which drew only on our first visit, and is taken from the DVD-anthology IN PERSON: WORLD POETS (Bloodaxe Books, 2017), which includes all the poems she reads on the film in the book part of the film/book package: bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/in-person-world-poets-dvd-book--1080 The poems are all originally from Ruth Stone’s retrospective WHAT LOVE COMES TO: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (Copper Canyon Press, USA, 2008; Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2009).