In the Next Galaxy

Stone, Ruth

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Aug-22-2006
  • Last revised: Mar-05-2008


This award-winning collection, published when the author was in her late 80s, contains 96 poems, most of them no more than one page in length. These poems are complex, interesting, surprising, and full of the pain of life. Stone has suffered and she does not hesitate to dwell on the causes of her suffering but she is not maudlin--she has lived and thought about life and she shows us how she lives and thinks.


Articles about Ruth Stone describe what seems to have been the defining moment of her life -- the unexpected suicide, when he was only 42, of the husband she deeply loved. She was left alone to bring up their three young girls (one from her first marriage) amidst economic hardship. Stone is still writing about this calamity and about her memory of her husband. She still asks questions about this inexplicable disaster: "I speak to you who are still loath to answer // Now it is Spring. Again it is that time you hung yourself. / Which self among you silenced all the rest?" ("Surviving," p. 77).

Still aware of widowhood, Stone realizes that she knew less of her husband while he was alive than what she has fantasized and brooded over since his death: "in my 30 years of knowing you / cell by cell in my widow's shawl, / we have lived together longer / in the discontinuous films of my sleep / than we did in our warm parasitical bodies." ("Getting to Know You," p. 67) In "Shapes" Stone extends her mourning beyond the personal: "In the longer view it doesn't matter. / However, it's that having lived, it matters. / So that every death breaks you apart. / You find yourself weeping at the door / of your own kitchen, overwhelmed / by loss." (p. 18) Other poems speak of her husband's body as corpse ("Reality," p. 64), memory and reminders of his presence ("Spring Snow," p. 58; "Useless Words," p. 29; "The Electric Fan and the Dead Man" p. 26), unacceptance of his death ("Always Your Shadow," p. 5).

Stone also writes about her life alone in rural Vermont, economy style traveling (bus depots, highway travel, train travel), nature, writing poetry, contemporary life. Her point of view flirts with despair, but seems always to come back to a willingness to take life on it's own terms.


This collection won the National Book Award.


Copper Canyon Press

Place Published

Port Townsend, Wash.



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