Ruth Stone, an award-winning poet for whom tragedy halted, then inspired a career that started in middle age and thrived late in life as her sharp insights into love, death and nature received ever-growing acclaim, has died in Vermont. She was 96.

Stone, who for decades lived in a farmhouse in Goshen, died Nov. 19 of natural causes at her home in Ripton, her daughter Phoebe Stone said Thursday. She was surrounded by her daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Widowed in her 40s and little known for years after, Ruth Stone became one of the country’s most honored poets in her 80s and 90s, winning the National Book Award in 2002 for “In the Next Galaxy” and being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for “What Love Comes To.” She received numerous other citations, including a National Book Critics Circle award, two Guggenheims and a Whiting Award that enabled her to have plumbing installed in her Goshen home.

She was born Ruth McDowell in 1915, the daughter of printer and part-time drummer Roger McDowell. A native of Roanoke, Va., who spent much of her childhood in Indianapolis, Ruth was a creative and precocious girl for whom poetry was almost literally mother’s milk; her mother would recite Tennyson while nursing her. A beloved aunt, Aunt Harriette, worked with young Ruth on poetry and illustrations and was later immortalized, with awe and affection, in the poem “How to Catch Aunt Harriette.”