Filmmaker Nora Jacobson to show poetic Ruth Stone film

By Jay Craven, Special to the Standard

Award-winning, veteran Vermont filmmaker, Nora Jacobson, will visit Billings Farm & Museum’s Woodstock Vermont Film Series on Saturday, Jan. 7 and Sunday, Jan. 8 — to discuss her new film, “Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind.” Exclusive to the Woodstock Vermont Film Series, the premiere of the director’s cut will be shown at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

I like all of Nora’s films — and, for me, this is her best. The Norwich filmmaker has approached her fascinating subject on her own terms — which is to say the film is layered and multi-dimensional in the manner of poetry itself. Jacobson’s cinematic dreamscape takes us inside Stone’s poetic imagination, combining footage that includes decades of observation, poetry reading, clever but never overbearing animation, and interviews with celebrated poets, Sharon Olds, Major Jackson, Toi Derricotte, Chard DeNiord, Verandah Porche and Edward Hirsch. 

Ruth Stone was a promising young poet, living an idyllic life with her beloved husband Walter Stone, a poet and professor when he died unexpectedly by suicide in 1959. Already a published poet with one book, titled “In An Iridescent Time,” Ruth found a way to continue writing while raising her three young daughters and teaching at various universities around the country as an itinerant poet. This was no easy feat — but the challenges she faced only added to her vivid articulations of a complicated and deeply lived life experience. 

Nora met Ruth Stone in 2009, when she was hired by Vermont poet Chard de Niord to film his interview with Stone, who was in her 90s and Vermont’s poet laureate at the time. Stone’s fading eyesight made for a compelling record of the moment that is captured in the film. 

Travis Weedon told of this moment in his November 2021 article in Seven Days. “As Stone recites ‘Metamorphosis,’ originally published in 1971, her granddaughters chime in for the poem’s opening stanza. Jacobson pans the camera across the room to capture the four women speaking in unison, but, as the younger voices drop out, she zooms in on Stone. The poet’s failing eyes peer into the distance as she continues in soliloquy: 

I see more now than then; but she who had my eyes 

Closed them in happiness, and wrapped the dark 

In her arms and stole my life away, 

Singing in dreams of what was sure to come.” 

Ruth Stone was an extraordinary figure but never a self-promoter, despite winning accolades including the National Book Award for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and two Guggenheim Fellowships. She was also a named finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Despite all this, she was unknown to many during her lifetime. Nora’s film is changing that — and driving increasing numbers of people to discover Stone’s haunting and richly evocative work. 

Nora Jacobson’s film ”Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind” chronicles Stone’s complex life story as a poet, mother, and teacher in a film that leaves its viewers inspired, enlightened, entertained and uplifted. It captures Stone’s vitality at each stage of her life — and chronicles a loving family, through its substantial inclusion of her devoted daughters and grandchildren. Their presence underscores how family tragedy and her response to it informed Stone’s indelible writing — and how her absent husband continued to inhabit her work. 

A 9th grade student at Thetford Academy wrote, “After watching this movie I feel very inspired. Hearing about Ruth Stone’s 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.” 

A visually beautiful film, ”Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind” captures the rural grist and heft of Stone’s heroic career, leaving no question as to why she has become both a Vermont and national treasure. 

“Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind” will screen at 3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7 and Sunday, Jan. 8 as part of the Woodstock Vermont Film Series, hosted and produced by Billings Farm & Museum. Filmmaker Nora Jacobson will join Film Series curator Jay Craven for a Q & A following the Saturday screening. Tickets can be purchased at the door or, in advance by calling 802-457-5303. Online sales are available at