Ruth Stone's Vast Library of the Female Mind
What People are Saying
Some recent articles about the film:
Commentary by Chard DeNiord, Vermont Poet Laureate
“Ruth Stone was a self-educated American original who possessed a formidable poetic gift. Blessed with both an eidetic memory and genius for crafting memorable poetry that chronicled her courageous life as a widow and mother of three daughters while living in poverty throughout most of her life, Stone grew steadily as a poet, ultimately winning a National Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships, and the honor of poet laureate of Vermont. Choosing to live in self-imposed obscurity throughout much of her career following the suicide of her husband, Walter, in 1959, Stone supported her family as an itinerant teacher of poetry and creative writing at numerous universities and colleges around the country, securing tenure finally at Binghamton SUNY at the age of 78. Few of her employers ever found out that she didn’t hold a college degree. Her accomplishments as a poet seem close to miraculous in retrospect when one sums up the enduring lyrical power of her poems that carved an indelible mark in the feminine grain of American poetry. The poet Sharon Olds captures her former mentor’s place in the pantheon of American poets as “the mother of mourning and the mother of humor.” Since Stone’s passing in 2011, it safe to say looking back on her career that no other poet in the canon of American poetry has forged such memorable, fierce, and moving poems about grief as Ruth Stone.
Without the experience traveling her “road less traveled,” Stone would have forgone her ironic advantage of conjuring her sublime tragi-comic voice. Yet, she always knew her poems were a gift, attributing them to her cosmic muse. “They just came to me from across the universe,” she insisted, “and I wrote them down.” Indeed, her poems resound as enduring “messages” that both entertain and break their readers’ hearts.
So how to capture the extraordinary life, legacy, voice, and presence of such a remarkable poet as Ruth Stone? Nora Jacobson has, in her 12 years of making this film, created something that catches Ruth in her natural element at home in Goshen, Vermont, often with her daughters and granddaughters at her side. In addition to chronicling Stone’s career with vintage footage contributed by film editor Sidney Wolinsky, and beguiling animation by Stone’s granddaughter, poet and artist Bianca Stone, Jacobson has included trenchant commentary about Ruth and her work by such noteworthy fellow poets as Ed Hirsch, Sharon Olds, Willis Barnstone, Toi Derricotte, Major Jackson, and others.
One can easily see why hundreds of Stone’s fans from across the country showed up at her 96th birthday party at The Poets House in New York City to pay tribute to her. The Vast Library of the Female Mind brings Stone’s poetry to life as living language while creating at the same time a deeply moving narrative of Stone’s life and unique career. It’s a film that anyone who cares about the life-sustaining power of poetry and its unlikely sources will cherish."
“What a wonderful film, both profound, and at the same time a warmhearted celebration of Ruth Stone and her extended family! We felt directly in the presence of Ruth Stone; her spontaneity and unpretentiousness both as a poet and as a person, and her alertness and her grief, which you bring out with a perfect balance of appreciation and respect....”
-Hume Vance, Author, Naturalist, Electrical Engineer
“What a wonderful woman, and what a beautiful tribute. Love the way you wove her story. Love the family. It was particularly lovely to see both Verandah Porche and Major Jackson....”
-Deb Ellis, Filmmaker, Filmmaking Professor at UVM
“Kudos on your exquisite documentary with a tone so in harmony with its subject....”
-Sandy Bragg, Financial Advisor, Film Programmer
“It is so beautiful a tribute! Phew! I will have to watch it again and again, because some tearsalt streaks my bifocals. JUST WONDERFUL!...”
-John Landry, Poet Laureate of New Bedford, MA
“I am amazed by the documentary — Ruth Stone is a fascinating subject, and you have captured her life with reverence and nuance through the poignant interviews, inclusion of older footage, and references to her work, to name a few. I also love the drawings/collages...”
-Grace Boyd, Dartmouth College Junior, Film Major
“I am so grateful to Nora Jacobson for introducing me to Ruth Stone and her poetry. The film not only inspired me to read Stone's collected works but also to bring the film and poems into my classroom... A first read quickly inspires a second look, opening the door to another, more complex meaning, and revealing Stone's brilliance and deep understanding of the complexity of the human condition."
-Marie D’Amato, 9th Grade English teacher, Hanover High School
“The documentary of Ruth Stone is one of the most elegant, stunning films I have ever had the pleasure to see. When the film opened up with Ruth Stone and her three grandchildren reciting a poem together, I was taken aback by the beauty of it. Seeing the two generations together, reciting a beautiful poem together was very impactful. This theme of family showed up repeatedly throughout the film, being one of the most important things to Ruth.
The most impactful part of the film for me was the section about her husband, Walter. I think that all of her poems about him gave me chills because her emotions shone through the words she used. Having what seemed like a strong relationship with a man who she loved, then having him suddenly commit suicide must have been one of the most heart breaking things to happen. She said later about how she felt when it happened “The bird inside has died” meaning the feeling and life she felt before had died. Just recently, a friend of mine committed suicide and it was one of the saddest, yet weirdest things that I have felt. It felt like a dark cloud had come over my head when I found out. This most likely can’t even compare to how Ruth felt. However she was very open about his death. Someone close to her said “you're supposed to go where it's most painful” which is exactly what she did. Death is something that everyone faces...
After watching this movie I feel very inspired. Hearing about her life, the hardships she went through and how she chose to put them into poems is very inspirational. She really made me realize how to enjoy the little things and how to cherish the people around me. She made me realize that when something bad happens, it's important to approach the feelings head on and move through them....”
-9th grader, Thetford Academy