Stone’s first book of verse, In an Iridescent Time, was published in 1959. Shortly after, Stone’s second husband, the promising poet and writer Walter Stone, committed suicide, leaving Stone a widow with three young children. The shock and grief of her husband’s suicide marked her poetry for the rest of her life. She settled in Vermont but for many years moved from one university to another in short-term teaching positions. Stone did not publish her second book, Topography, until 1971 and remained a fairly obscure voice until the series of awards and accolades at the beginning of the millennium drew national attention. In 1990, she became a professor of English at SUNY Binghamton.
Stone’s other honors and awards include two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Walter Cerf Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. Stone’s acceptance speech for the National Book Awards illustrates both her devotion to poetry and her humility:
“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, you know, my life went along here, and I got married and had three kids and did all the things you have to do, and all along the time this stream was going along. 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.”
The author of 13 books of poetry, Ruth Stone died in late 2011.