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

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nancy Simpson and Janice Townley Moore - Two of the NC Poets With Poems in the New Bird Anthology titled THE POETS GUIDE TO THE BIRDS

Are you a bird watcher? A Lover of the natural world? Nancy Simpson and Janice Townley Moore are two of the NC poets who had their Poems included in the new bird anthology titled THE POETS GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. Both of these poets live and write in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The anthology contains only bird poems, some of them by the most noted poets writing in America today. It was edited by Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser and published at Anhinga Press, Tallahassee, Florida, 2009.

Janice Townley Moore's poem is "Teaching the Robins," which is the title poem of her chapbook Teaching the Robins published at Finishing Line Press, 2005. Nancy Simpson's poem is a previously unpublished poem titled "Carolina Bluebirds."




The Poets Guide to the Birds is available at www.anhingapress, at amazon.com and at Phillips and Lloyd Bookstore on the square in Hayesville, NC.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TEACHING MYSELF How to Burn Last Years Leaves by Nancy Simpson

If you live in a forest
don't burn on a windy day.
Look on the boundary oak
for the surveyor's orange ribbon.
If it is not dancing, if it dangles,
you can hope burning is safe.
Best, burn when rain is predicted.

Rake leaves onto the dirt driveway.
Make small leaf mounds.
Burn one or two leaf piles at a time.
Don't let yourself think of the day
your young sons scorched the mountainside.
Do not look across the drive
where your old home place used to be.

Forget it. The cabin was dismantled,
buldozers to the ground, buried.
Don't think of the man who found you
burning leaves one spring and said,
"Let me help you." He will not come back.
They're all gone now. Rake and burn
leaf piles 3&4, 5&6.




Let sudden wind frighten. Rake faster
when your hear thunder. Rake hot coals
into the gravel. Stop only when rain
drives you back to the tool shed.
Tomorrow you will see bright green foliage
of five thousand daylilies lining your drive,
promising to bloom.

Previously published in Journal of Kentucky Studies

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kathryn Stripling Byer Special Guest Poet at Coffee With the Poets Feb. 11, 2009

Nancy Simpson Introduced Special Guest Kathryn Stripling Byer

Poet Michelle Keller Coordinates Coffee With the Poets and Serves as Publicist for all of NCWN West.

Glenda Beall, NC Writers Network West Program Coordinator and Founder of Coffee With the Poets



Glenda Beall is the glue that holds NCWN West together. Under her watch, she began Coffee With the Poets, a monthly program that is attended by poets from the Netwest area. It is a program that is open to the public. There is always a special guest poet and there is always an open mic reading.

Brenda Kay Ledford, Maren O. Mitchell and Richard Argo at Coffee With the Poets

Lynn Hamilton Rutherford, Georgia Poet

Georgia Poet Carole Richard Thompson

Poet Brenda Kay Ledford, author of Patchwork Memories, Shew Bird Mountain and Sacred Fire from Finishing Line Press

Poet Linda M. Smith

Georgia Poets Lynn Hamilton Rutherford, Karen Holmes, and Glenda Barrett

COFFEE WITH THE POETS Featured Special Guest Poet Kathryn Stripling Byer




Kathryn Stripling Byer, NC Poet Laureate gave a special reading of her poems at Phillips and Lloyd Bookstore in Hayeville,NC on February 11, 2009. Kathryn Stripling Byer's reading marked the official opening of the 2009 monthly poetry reading program sponsored by NC Writers Network West that is held at the bookstore. The program features a guest poet each month and there is always an open mic reading. Poets within driving distance are wecome.


Kathryn Stripling Byer grew up in southwest Georgia, graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and earned her Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied with Allen Tate, Fred Chappell, and Robert Watson. Her books of poetry include Coming To Rest (Louisiana State University 2006) Catching Light (Louisiana State University Press, 2002); Black Shawl (1998); Wildwood Flower (1992), which was the 1992 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets; and The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (1986), which was published in the Associated Writing Programs award series.

Byer's poems have appeared in Arts Journal, Carolina Quarterly, Georgia Review, Hudson Review, Iowa Review, Nimrod, Poetry, and Southern Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her essays have appeared in Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers (edited by Joyce Dyer; University Press of Kentucky, 1998), Dream Garden: The Poetic Vision of Fred Chappell (edited by Patrick Bizzaro; Louisiana State University Press, 1997), The Boston Globe, and Shenandoah.

Kathryn Stripling Byer has received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. She is poet-in-residence at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Poet Must Do Some Digging in Serious Dirt - John Stone, POET OF THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY

Physician Poet John Stone talked about the poetry process as a way of going deep. I was privaleged to hear him in writing classes and workshops he taught at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta and at Winthrop College in South Carolina, back when I first began to write poems. What stuck with me all these years was John Stone's belief that poetry has to go below the surface. The poet must do some digging in "serious dirt."

Poets often discuss the poetry process as an act of going deep, digging up something, bringing up something that was buried below the surface, such as finding the ore, mining for gold. The metphor of fishing comes up in such a discussion of the poetry process. The poet casts a line, snags something, hooks something that lies below in the murky deep. Seamus Heaney's famous poem " Digging" is an example as is Adreinne Rich's famous poem "Diving Into the Wreck."

Here are two poems by poet John Stone. "Digging" and "Looking Into a Ditch" show his writing process. These are two poems I read again and again and often share with my students. --Nancy Simpson

"Digging" and "Looking Down Into a Ditch" - Two Poems By John Stone





DIGGING by John Stone

My son is following
a tree root to its source,
learning connections,
dirt and purpose
all at once.

He has attacked it before,
but from topside,
monkeying the limbs.

He shows me the branches
underground,
makes me believe
there are leaves on them
in some different season

when we must come back and look.


from the collection THE SMELL OF MATCHES
Louisiana State University Press



LOOKING DOWN INTO A DITCH by John Stone

Watching the workmen dig a ditch
watching them lay in the pipe

for the waste and gasses
and liquids of our living

I think of the lost maps
of lost cities, their pipes
still moving off
in important directions

of people I knew
who are now in the serious dirt

of the ditches at Dachau

of my father.

It is hard
to keep remembering
across the ditches we have made
and covered over
with terrible earth-moving sound

how much of our dying
we must find ways not to need,
how much of what keeps us alive
is underground.

from the collection IN ALL THIS RAIN
Louisiana State University Press


John Stone was born Feb. 7, 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi and he died on November 6, 2008 at his home near Atlanta. He was four times honored as Georgia Writer of the year . A memorial poetry reading was held in his honor January 14, 2009 at Callanwolde Conservatory. During parts of the 1970s and 1980s John Stone served on the Callanwolde Poetry Committee.

He was the author of The Smell of Matches 1972, 1989 LSU Press, Where Water Begins, LSU Press 1998,In All this Rain 1980 LSU Press, Renaming the Streets, 1985 LSU Press, Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems 2004 LSU Press. In 1990 Delacorte Press published In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine, (Essays). The book was reprinted by LSU Press in 1996.

Dr. John Stone was Professor Emeritus of Cardiology at Emory University in Atlanta. He also taught English Literature at Emory and at Oxford University in England.

Monday, February 2, 2009

POEMS BY Physician Poet John Stone


We celebrate the life and the poetry of Physician Poet, John Stone. He is the Featured Poet here for the month of February 2009.

LIVING ABOVE THE FROST LINE celebrates John Stone, his life and his poetry. In February, his birth month, Janice Townley Moore and I received permission from his wife Mae Nelson Stone to reprint some of his poems.

In talking with others who know his work well, it was felt that often the doctor poems and the patient poems get the most attention. Doctor Stone was Emeritus Professor of Cardiology at Emory University Hospital. The doctor poems such as “He Makes a House Call” and “Resuscitation” are great poems and they among others are often named as favorites.

The poems here were selected by John Stone’s widow, Mae Nelson Stone. She chose her favorite poems that show him more as the private person and the family man that he was.

We will continue to talk about John Stone and his influence on our lives and on our poetry. We will talk about his poems, and we know we shall read them again and again. --Nancy Simpson

POEMS BY Physician Poet JOHN STONE

THE BASS

Because I was 37 and he was 10
I was presumed and of course
to know everything important

plus
how to take the fish off the hook.
I'd been told largemouth

and striped bass
both either
waited for us below

the still crystal of the lake
I had no expectation though
of actually catching a fish

when somehow we did
After we hauled it heavily
in over the gunwales

like a glittering glory
no way was I about to touch
that wide mouth, those razor fins

gills, those sparkling cold-blooded
scales
until all spasm stopped

To this day my son
may think the way
to take a fish off the hook

is to place it, hook still intact
in the bottom of the boat
place a paddle over the fish

and keep your foot gently but steadfastly
on the paddle on the fish
After the flailing and flopping

I managed with something like
experience to get the hook out
Then as morning broke over us

we made our slow electric way
back to the boathouse
That fish won for us

a trophy
which I keep here on my desk
to remind me of that morning and of

how unexpected the end may be
how hungry
how shining

--John Stone
Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected
Poems
, LSU Press 2004



NOON THURSDAY

I dropped in
on my mother
dazzling in her yellow sweater
having lunch.

I sat down
at her table.
I'd seen her
two days ago

but this time
I startled her
I think--too early
in the week

for another visit.
You just appeared
out of nowhere!
she said

then asked me, smiling:
What have you been doing
all these years?
I didn't know what to say.
It's the very
same question
I've been asking myself.

--John Stone
Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected
Poems,
LSU Press 2004



VISITATION
December 2001

At Serenity Gardens, winter
has surrounded us. My mother's room
is way too warm for me,

just right for her--with an extra sweater.
Outside, this uneasy year, her 93rd,
lurches through December.

She is surely serene in this place,
thanks to whatever goodness;
queen of the electronic piano.

Among my chief duties now
I have become her human calendar,
a stay against time, her reach for the past.

Each visit, we review the years.
We sit and talk, fragile mother,
absent-minded son.

This afternoon, I assemble for her
some semblance of my long-dead
father, the only husband she had.

I tell her his story
We study his photograph.
Do you remember him, I ask?

She looks again.
No, she answers, softly. No.
But isn't he good looking!

She smiles. I chuckle.
In the gathering dark,
we cry a bit together:

I for what she has forgotten,
she for what I remember.

--John Stone
Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected
Poems,
LSU Press 2004



John Stone was born Feb. 7, 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi and he died on November 6, 2008 at his home near Atlanta. He was four times honored as Georgia Writer of the year . A memorial poetry reading was held in his honor January 14, 2009 at Callanwolde Conservatory. During parts of the 1970s and 1980s John Stone served on the Callanwolde Poetry Committee.

He was the author of The Smell of Matches 1972, 1989 LSU Press, Where Water Begins, LSU Press 1998,In All this Rain 1980 LSU Press, Renaming the Streets, 1985 LSU Press, Music From Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems 2004 LSU Press. In 1990 Delacorte Press published In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine, (Essays). The book was reprinted by LSU Press in 1996.

GROUNDHOG DAY WEATHER REPORT FROM ABOVE THE FROST LINE





On Feburary 2, 2009, Punxsutawaney Phil in Pennsylvania saw his shadow and the word is out, "Six more weeks of winter for residents living in the Northeast."

In Atlanta, General Beauregard Lee who lives at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn did not see his shadow. It was announced. Spring is just around the corner for resident of the Southeast.

Do you believe this?

Yes, I do. Our resident groundhog (woodchuck) here above the frost line declared at daylight this morning that as soon as new green shoots appear, he will be climbing his favorite tree and dining in luxury once more.