Monday, January 30, 2012

Late Blooming

The January ice and cold has finally arrived and I am already imagining early spring buds pushing their way up through the hardened mud. These would be called early bloomers…which then led to my thinking about the opposite. Isn’t the mind a wonderful thing?

While visiting family, I noticed an obituary for Ruth Stone in the “Orange County Register”, November 25, 2011. The well awarded but not so well known poet had died at the age of ninety-six. Then, an article about her, written by Philip Levine, the current poet laureate, appeared in the “New York Times” magazine on Christmas Day.

Ruth was nurtured in poetry as a child by her mother and her aunt, but she didn’t publish her first book until 1959 at age 44 and her second in 1971 at age 56. Her difficult personal life had prevented her from publishing, but not from writing. She published her third book in 1986.

No stranger to turbulence and grief, her poems address the dark themes of betrayal, rage, suicide (her second husband, the poet Walter Stone), loneliness and despair. Just the themes we want to wrestle with in January. But her poems are “loaded with pugnacity, sass and humor.” Take that!

Her life stabilized in the nineties when she became an English Professor at SUNY Binghamton. She continued to publish and began to receive numerous awards in the literary world. A career that essentially began in mid-life blossomed and thrived late in life. Most of her published work came out after she turned 70. She wrote about aging and death ---confronting, lamenting and kidding them.
Philip Levine considers her “one of the truly significant poets of my era.” A late bloomer to be celebrated. I’ll drink to that.