Hayden Carruth, 1921-2008 | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your support!

Give Now

Hayden Carruth, 1921-2008 

Published October 6, 2008 at 9:51 a.m.

Robert Frost would never have written poems with titles such as “Mr. Septic Tanck” or “The Oldest Killed Lake in North America.” Hayden Carruth, who died last week at 87, was nonetheless considered Frost’s successor. Carruth had an eye — and an ear — for rural New England life, but his poems were grittier and more honest than those of Vermont’s most oft-quoted bard.

His life was, too. Although he did eventually win a National Book Award, Carruth was plagued by agoraphobia, stage fright, addiction and madness. Where Frost read at Kennedy’s inauguration, Carruth famously wrote a letter turning down an invitation to read at the Clinton White House. Then he published it.

Carruth was healthiest and most productive when he lived in Vermont. In the back woods of Johnson, he lived and worked his material, inspiring poets such as David Budbill, David Huddle and Geof Hewitt. Two former Vermont poet laureates lament that Carruth never got his turn at the top; he ended up moving to New York state — near Syracuse — because he couldn’t land an academic job in Vermont. Six years ago, his Vermont peers decided to honor Carruth by bringing him back for a series of readings around the state.

Carruth didn’t keep a date book. Or so he told me when I called him to arrange an interview in advance of his Vermont appearance. But it was his reputation for unpredictable behavior that had me worried as I drove five and a half hours to his home in Munnsville, New York. Would he even remember our date? Along the way, I listened to recordings of Carruth reading his own elegant but organic poetry. There was no better way to prepare for the encounter.

This profile from that visit tells Carruth’s story, and, I hope, captures his inimitable voice.

One or more images has been removed from this article. For further information, contact [email protected].
Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Tags: ,

More By This Author

About The Author

Paula Routly

Paula Routly

Paula Routly came to Vermont to attend Middlebury College. After graduation, she stayed and worked as a dance critic, arts writer, news reporter and editor before she started Seven Days newspaper with Pamela Polston in 1995. Routly covered arts news, then food, and, starting in 2008, focused her editorial energies on building the news side of the operation, for which she is a regular weekly editor. She conceptualized and managed the “Give and Take” special report on Vermont’s nonprofit sector, the “Our Towns” special issue and the yearlong “Hooked” series exploring Vermont’s opioid crisis. When she’s not editing stories, Routly runs the business side of Seven Days — overseeing finances, management and product development. She spearheaded the creation of the newspaper’s numerous ancillary publications and events such as Restaurant Week and the Vermont Tech Jam. In 2015, she was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.


Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2023 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation