/ / Liz Gilbert on Ruth Stone’s Creative Process

Liz Gilbert on Ruth Stone’s Creative Process

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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.

Always on the Train

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.

Nothing but the horizon to stop you.
But consider the railroad’s edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.

What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

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.

Below the weedy edge in last year’s mat,
red and silver beer cans.

In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.

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