Monday, February 23, 2009

JOHN STONE, POET AND HEALER

by Poet Janice Townley Moore

One of the most memorable occasions on which I ever saw John Stone was a beautiful October day in Atlanta during and after another triumphant performance of The Poet and the Pianist. The year was 2006 and perhaps the fifth or sixth time that he and musician Will Ransom had held an audience spellbound with a rare combination of composers such as Chopin, Debussy, and Schumann interspersed so well with John Stone reading his poems. It should be stated that one of the earlier performances had been held at Carnegie Hall in 2001.

On this particular day at Emory University, the large windows of the Carlos Museum Recital Hall looking out on the quadrangle offered a stunning view of autumn hues against marble buildings and a dramatically overcast sky. John and Will had also revised the program, adding new poems about John’s mother, close to one hundred years old at the time and residing in nearby assisted living. I remember that the poems about her brought an especially enthusiastic response. As an introduction he held up a recent photograph of his mother, her face slightly shaded by an attractive straw hat in “lighting by Vermeer” as one poem described her.

All of the above I hold dear in memory, but a personal portrait of John after he left the stage remains as the chief indelible image from that day. Shortly after the ovations, the bows, and more ovations, as the crowd started to make its way out, I found John seated near the back of the hall. He was chatting with a woman wearing one of those open boot type casts. Edging closer, I could hear his inquiries about her condition and her replies. His focus was entirely on her in the pressing patchwork of the crowd. In the midst of those still waiting to congratulate him, he was forever the patient physician, showing concern even when he was the major event of that gathering. The easy way in which he spoke to her, the sincerity of his interest have remained as a living portrait in the chasm of his loss. I think of how many others, both patients and friends, were the fortunate recipients of his kind words.

If words can help in physical healing, they can also help in healing the other pains that assault “this mortal coil.” This is where John’s poetry is extremely valuable, equal to the pleasure found in reading it. The human encounter that he relished so much in his medical practice is the same human encounter that one is privileged to be part of in his poems. Whether in the memory of those he spoke with, either medically or in casual conversation, or read on the pages of his remarkable and award winning books, his words are what we are left with. They keep us alive and living better.

Janice Townley Moore
February 23, 2009

3 comments:

Glenda C. Beall said...

Janice, what a lovely image of this man, John Stone. I envy your personal relationship with this physician whose compassion shows so clearly in his touching poetry.
Thanks to you and to Mrs. Stone for sharing stories of him and his poetry.

Nancy Simpson said...

Janice, Thanks for sharing this memory with us. Dr. John Stone had many talents and he used them and shared his wisdom. But I did not know he was also an accomplished pianist who had played at Carnegie Hall
in 2001 and performed The Poet and the Pianist at
Carlos Museum Recital Hall 2006.

It has been an honor to feature the life and poetry of
Dr. John Stone on this site during this,his birth month. Thank you, Janice, for helping to make it possible.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Janice,
You've written a wonderful profile about Dr. Stone. Thank you for sharing your memories of him.
http://blueridgepoet.blogspot.com