Last year was a good one for 87-year-old Vermont poet Ruth Stone. In November, she won the National Book Award for her book "In the Next Galaxy," and as the year ended, she received the $150,000 Wallace Stevens Prize from the Academy of American Poets in recognition of her mastery of poetry.
"A poet looks at the world / as a woman looks at a man," she writes in the poem "Words," turning a famous Wallace Stevens line on its head (and, in the process, reclaiming the world for herself). Several years ago, in an interview with Boulevard magazine, Stone talked about why art, and her chosen art in particular, matters:
"We need the stories from artists, we need the poetry, we need the music, we need the artwork, everything. We need that in order to know what life is. And how to go on and make any kind of relationship with other people. We need it to have any kind of apprehension of what it is to be human. Otherwise we're always at the forefront, moment by moment, and we have only the fumbling ways of getting there, and we learn by our mistakes.
"No wonder it takes an entire life to finally get a tiny bit of wisdom. Well, wisdom is available in the arts. That's where it is! Free. Almost free. We need everything we can get to have a little bit of wisdom about living."