by Ruth Stone

Page 1

When I read her poems, these original, hard as steel poems, and I feel the intensity in every word, words used in new ways, bent to her will, then I think she was self-sufficient, an artist whose mind was never asleep, whose concentration recreated, made fresh all that she saw and felt, as though she saw through the ordinary barriers, not as a visionary, but as a laser beam. But when I think of how little recognition she received in her lifetime, and how devastated she must have felt, though her fierce pride concealed it, then I am angry and sad. Yes, a great artist knows and can work in almost total isolation, but it is a terrible thing to have to do. The original mind seems eccentric, even crazy sometimes. In her cryptic inventions, she broke the tiresome mold of American poetry. We still stand among those shards and splinters.

Many a phrase has the English language -
I have heard but one -
Low as the laughter of the Cricket,
Loud, as the Thunder's Tongue -

Murmuring, like old Caspian Choirs,
When the Tide's a'lull -
Saying itself in new inflection -
Like a Whippoorwill -

Breaking in bright Orthography
On my simple sleep -
Thundering its Prospective -
Till I stir, and weep -

Not for the Sorrow, done me -
But the push of Joy -
Say it again, Saxon!
Hush - Only to me!

(JP 276)

Saying, "there's another one that I think is astonishing," she read:

The Loneliness One dare not sound -
And would as soon surmise
As in its Grave go plumbing
To ascertain the size -

The Loneliness whose worst alarm
Is lest itself should see -
And perish from before itself
For just a scrutiny -

The Horror not to be surveyed -
But skirted in the Dark -
With Consciousness suspended -
And Being under Lock -

I fear me this - is Loneliness -
The Maker of the soul
Its Caverns and its Corridors
Illuminate - or seal -

(JP 777)

  next page
about the author
audio version
table of contents
search the archives

  Titanic Operas Main Page
Copyright 1999 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Rebecca Mooney  <>
Last updated on March 10, 2008
Dickinson Electronic Archives