Ordinary Words is the luminous, wild, and lyrical collection of poetry that brought Ruth Stone the critical acclaim she long deserved with the National Book Critics Circle Award, and it paved the way to the National Book Award and long-deserved critical attention. Ordinary Words captures a unique vision of Americana, marked by Stone's characteristic wit, poignancy, and lyricism. The poet addresses the environment, poverty, and aging with fearless candor and surprising humor. Sister poet to Nobel Prize-winner Wislawa Syzmborska, Ruth Stone offers a view of her country and its citizens that is tender humorous, and filled with hard political truths as well as love, beauty, cruelty, and sorrow. Ruth Stone is a poet of the people, and poet's poet. Ordinary Words shows that poetry is about everyday life, our life. Poems are set in Rutland, Vermont; Indianapolis; Chattanooga; Houston; Boise; and Troy, New York (where celluloid collars were made). Stone's subjects are trailer parks, state parks, prefab houses, school crossing guards, bears, snakes, hummingbirds, bottled water, Aunt Maud, Uncle Cal, lost love, dry humping at the Greyhound bus terminal, and McDonalds as a refuge from loneliness. Her heroes are dead husbands, wild grandmothers, struggling daughters: ordinary Americans leading simple and extraordinary lives.
Ruth Stone is the author of nine books of poetry, for which she has received the National Book Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Shelley Memorial Award. She taught creative writing at many universities, finally settling at SUNY Binghamton. She lives in Vermont.
Goshen, Vermont and Binghamton, New York
Date of Birth:
June 8, 1915
Place of Birth:
University of Illinois (no degree); B.A., Radcliffe Institute of Independent Study at Harvard University
Read an Excerpt
In our loss we accepted the strange shape of things as though it had meaning for us, as though we moved slowly over the acreage, as though the ground modulated like water. The floors and the cupboards slanted to the West, the house sinking toward the evening side of the sky. The children and I sitting together waiting, there on the back porch, the massive engine of the storm swelling up through the undergrowth, pounding toward us.