National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Ruth Stone, Winner of the 2002 POETRY AWARD for In the Next Galaxy

I certainly wasn't expecting this. I don't know why. There were, all of the readers that I heard at the reading the other night were wonderful. I sat absolutely enthralled. All of the poets on the panel are fabulous. I think you probably gave it to me because I'm old.

I guess I should say I've been writing poetry or whatever it is since I was five or six years old, and I couldn't stop, I never could stop. I don't know why I did it. Anyway. It was like a stream that went along beside me, you know, my life went along here, and I got married and had three kids and did all the things you have to do, and all along the time this stream was going along. And I really didn't know what it was saying. It just talked to me, and I wrote it down. So I can't even take much credit for it.

I want to thank the lovely people at Copper Canyon, the editors whose names I can't remember right now. And I also want to thank my daughter who isn't here, Abigail Stone, who, because of my eyesight, took over for me and worked with Copper Canyon on the book, making it perfect and so forth.

I think that poetry rises especially in times of oppression, like in Yugoslavia, where it became a great thing for the oppressed recently and what seems recently to me. Of course all of the arts, everything that the wonderful human mind does is, is important. I do want to say that, printing and the publishers are utterly important. I mean, sometimes you may think they do it for money, but they don't make that much money. So I also want to say, bless the publishers, bless the people who read and who push their children to read, because reading, it seems to me, I know it's a recent thing, that we didn't used to read, but it was a concrete event, it really was, and I also want to say a blessing to Gutenberg. That's who we owe it to, don't we? Thank you.