ruth stone running like hell as poetry chases her home

there’s a story that i often quote that i forget about the source almost every time i quote it. the story came up even just a couple of months ago when i met up with peter forbes and neitherof us could remember where i came from, though both of us knew it. we had a sense that we had heard it via on being, but couldn’t quite place it… so now i’m writing this up so i can just fucking find it in the future.

some quick googling didn’t help me find it on on being, but i didn’t find out via wikipedia (which i’m now starting to be less excited about because of everything jaron lanier says about it in you are not a gadget) how it got injected into conversations over the past few years. it’s a section a elizabeth gilbert’s TED talk and here’s the transcript for that section:

As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming . . . ‘cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, “run like hell” to the house as she would be chased by this poem.

The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would “continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”

And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.[5]

i just love this whole image. it feels appropriately embellished (and most of my favorite poetry is including a poem i heard the other day on vs about a cockroach by angel nafis).

i quote this story and idea often because it feels relevant to so many different contexts. it’s a little mystical, for sure, but i do often get the sense that this is how ideas come and go.

and i think the biggest thing i’ve gained from this imagery of a poem chasing you across a field is that sometimes you just don’t catch it. and i’ve been moving myself to believe that that’s actually ok. it will find another poet if it’s meant to. though since i only really write poetry at the same time of day i really and more talking about ideas of things to write. so often i’m in a conversation with someone and a thread sort of appears that seems worthy of writing out. or a set of ideas seems to crystallize out of nowhere. i’d love to catch each and every one of those… and there are just too many. so letting them thunder on i think is just something i have to do. it sort of aligns with the thinking that ideas are cheap and what it’s really about is execution. there will always be more ideas so hold them lightly and loosely. only catch the ones you really want to move on.

anyways… idk how i ended up here given the opening of this post but here we are! time to get my day going.


words / writing / post-processing
464w / 12min /