Writers find a home through Ruth Stone House
GOSHEN — Many historic movements in poetry have begun with one or two poets coming together and drawing in other poets with the gravity of their words. They bounce ideas off one another and work together to develop and shape their art to perfection. The Beat generation of poets met in New York in the 1940s this way, as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg drew in William S. Borroughs and Gregory Corso.
A group of poets in the area in and around Goshen, Vt., have gathered in much this same fashion around two poets with historic ties to the area.
One focus of this community-building has been the former home of onetime Vermont Poet Laureate Ruth Stone in Goshen and the Ruth Stone House organization set up to restore the building.
Ruth Stone taught creative writing at several universities around the nation, including University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, University of California at Davis and Brandeis University, and published 13 books of poetry while living in her Goshen home. She also won several awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, a National Book Award, and the Wallace Stevens Award.
A Virginia native born in 1915, Stone moved to Goshen in 1956. The little farmhouse, where she raised her family amidst the challenging economic conditions of the times, provided much of the inspiration for her craft, as did the death of her husband, Walter Stone, in 1959.
Since her passing in 2011, Ruth Stone’s house on Hathaway Road in Goshen fell into disrepair, but is currently being remodeled thanks to donations through the Ruth Stone House, formerly called the Ruth Stone Foundation.
Founded by her granddaughter Bianca Stone and Bianca’s husband, Ben Pease, the Ruth Stone House looks to further Ruth Stone’s wish that her estate would be used to nurture poetry and creative arts. They do this not only by working to restore the home of the famous poet, but by helping nurture and promote a group of local poets.
The goal is to be able to provide artists with a quiet place to hone their craft among like-minded artists and also have a sounding board for new material. Bianca had always wanted to host a writers’ retreat in the historic home, but said the house needed a lot of work before that could happen. She and Pease left their jobs and home in New York City in 2014 to move to Goshen and set to work repairing her grandmother’s house.
The Vermont Poet Laureate and National Book Award winner owned the historic home, thought to have been built in the 1830s, from 1956 until 2011. Bianca and company have been working to restore the home to its former glory and transform it into a writers retreat since 2013, although a concentrated effort did not begin until 2016.
“Thanks to private donations and volunteers, we’ve made huge leaps restoring her house,” she said at a poetry reading this summer, “but because the house was under construction and we wanted to provide a creative outlet for the community, we started the writers group at the library.”
“The mission of the (Ruth Stone House) is to be able to provide artists with time and space to work on their poetry,” Pease said. “Being able to read their work to a group who will listen to it intensely inspires people to write.”
Even though work on the home is not yet finished, the organization began meeting with authors years ago for poetry workshops in Brandon.
The sessions became longer and more detailed so the couple moved the meetings to the living room in their current Brandon home.
“We started in the Brandon library, but then moved the group to our home,” Pease said. “We do workshops every week and readings at least once a month, but in July it seems like we did one a week.”
The workshops attract poets who have written extensively, including published artists, but Pease said they are for everyone, even those who are just curious about writing poetry.
“The library told us we could stay as long as we wanted,” said Pease. “But the lights went off automatically at eight and it was just easier to hold them at our home so we could go as long as we needed.”
If all goes according to plan, the Ruth Stone House will host poets in the actual house where Ruth Stone lived in Goshen soon. The home is still undergoing renovations.