Monday, June 22, 2015

In the Next Galaxy by Ruth Stone

The author was a very old woman in 2002 when this book came out. She was born in Virginia in 1915, before the U.S. involvement in World War I. She won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2002 for this book or perhaps for her body of work. She'd already won many other major awards in the past.

At some point during the production of this book Stone lost her sight and her daughter Abigail did the corrections and proofreading, reading to her.

Stone's Wikipedia entry records a conversation she had with the journalist and novelist Elizabeth Gilbert in which Stone relates the experience of "catching a poem:"
"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."

If you would like to hear Gilbert relate this conversation, please listen to Gilbert's TED talk in which she talks about where creativity comes from.

And here is one of Stone's poems from this book:

Corn is universal,
so like a Roman senator.
Its truths are silk tassels.
True its ears are sometimes
rotten, impure.
But it aspires in vast acres,
to conspire with every pollinator
and to bear for the future
in its yellow hair.

And what are your aspirations,
oh my dears,
who will wear into tatters
like the dry sheaves
left standing, stuttering
in November's wind;
my Indian corn, my maize,
my seeds for a ruined world.
Oh my daughters.

Ruth Stone published thirteen books of poetry. She died in 2011.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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