vocalisms #10: Ruth Stephan

vocalisms is a twice monthly feature that presents selected tracks from voca, the Poetry Center's online audio video library of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.

Photo of Ruth Stephan by LaVerne Harrell Clark

In the first minute and a half of her 1964 reading, Poetry Center founder Ruth Stephan sets out her purpose for writing poems. “I find that what I am trying to do, particularly in poetry, is to make the invisible visible,” she says, going on to discuss how the invisible defines our sense of the world. Stephan—a novelist, editor, and filmmaker as well as a poet—continues by describing her book Various Poems, which includes work written during her time in Japan at Ryoko-in, the famous Zen monastery. Consider also listening to “Daitokuji Poems” and “On Nothing”: Stephan’s interpretation of Zen comes through in both, a mix of the serious and the playful. For more on Ruth Stephan’s life and notable work, check out “The Creative Life of Ruth Stephan,” written by Library Director Wendy Burk.