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Ruth Stone, National Book Award Winner and Pulitzer Finalist, Dies at 96

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A blog from: Poets & Writers Magazine

Posted by Prize Reporter on 11.28.11

Ruth Stone, a poet who received several major awards late in her decades-long career, has passed away. The poet, whose first collection, An Iridescent Time, was published in 1959, won the 2002 National Book Award for her collection In the Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon Press, 2002), and the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award for Ordinary Words (Paris Press, 1999). Her most recent volume, What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

When she received the NBA nine years ago, Stone began her acceptance speech, "All of the poets on the panel are fabulous. I think you probably gave it to me because I'm old." She added, "I guess I should say I've been writing poetry or whatever it is since I was five or six years old, and I couldn't stop, I never could stop. I don't know why I did it. It was like a stream that went along beside me. And I really didn't know what it was saying. It just talked to me, and I wrote it down. So I can't even take much credit for it."

Stone, whose other honors include the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award, a Whiting Writers' Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, has also inspired a prize to be created in her name. Hunger Mountain, published in Stone's longtime home state of Vermont, is holding its annual Ruth Stone Prize competition, open to groups of poems, until December 10.

In the video below, author Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the genius of Stone's process, describing the poet's attempt to capture a poem thundering toward her across the landscape of her Vermont farm.

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