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10 April 2012

Ruth Stone died

I just learned today that Ruth Stone died last November. She was a poet.

I love her description of how it felt when a poem came to her. She said it was like a thunderous train of air barreling down over the landscape, and she had to drop whatever she was doing and run for paper and pencil to be ready when the poem arrived. If she was too slow, the poem would pass through her and continue on, bound for the next stop, the next poet ready with pen in hand.

This is certainly an abridgment of her description, but it was this quote I was looking for when I found that she had passed on. Ms. Stone had a wonderful way of looking at the world, always from a new angle. Trite retreads of old and forgettable themes were not what she was about.

I love reading poems that start with the everyday and then open an Alice hole to fall into, abruptly transforming the mundane subject so that you can never look at it quite the same way again.

Like trash on the side of a railroad line, which she describes in Always on the Train. I remember reading that for the first time and there were a few lines that absolutely floored me.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft, bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic - windows on a house of air.

Windows on a house of freaking air!

That blew me away the first time I read it. The image of whirling air windows made of crinkly Brach's candy wrappers, that was so new in my mind and yet so perfect. I love the way writing, and especially poetry, can do that.

And the grasshoppers in front of a reaper wasn't all that bad either.

Ms. Stone was the kind of poet I would aspire to be one day. I never met her. Don't know much about her other than what a dust jacket bio might say, but I don't think she saw herself as a prophet or a profound sage slinging wisdom, just a witness to the world, one who could show it to others in different-colored lenses from time-to-time if they allowed her.