John Stone (1936-2008)
A poet, essayist, cardiologist, and lecturer, John Stone
The grandson of a general practitioner, John Henry Stone was born February 7, 1936, in Jackson, Mississippi. His father, a production supervisor, died of a heart attack at the age of forty-five, when Stone was a senior in high school. Stone received his B.A. from Millsaps College in Jackson in 1958 and his M.D. from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1962. He completed his residency in medicine and cardiology at the University of Rochester in New York and a fellowship in cardiology at Emory University, where he took a position with the medical school faculty in 1969. At Emory, Stone created one of the first medical school courses combining literature and medicine. He also taught the course for several years, beginning in 1993, at England's Oxford University as part of Emory's Summer Studies Program. From 1974 to 1985 he worked full time at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, founding and directing its emergency-medicine residency program.
Stone began his literary career with The Smell of Matches, published by Rutgers University Press in 1972, which won an award from the Georgia Writers Association. In this volume and In All This Rain (1980), Renaming the Streets (1985), which won the Literature Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, and Where Water Begins: New Poems and Prose (1998), Stone's witty, insightful, and sensitive poetry examines the common threads between literature and medicine. In the tradition of another physician-poet, William Carlos Williams, Stone believed his duty as a writer was to prepare for "a good death."
It is in his role as an essayist that Stone best chronicles the relationship between the poet's sensitivity and the doctor's clinical examination of the human condition. The twenty-three essays of In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine (1990) reflect on his career in medicine. We each have a literal and a metaphorical heart, he argues, and both the poet and the physician make use of the same materials. In their introduction to On Doctoring: Stories, Poems, Essays (1991), Stone and coeditor Richard Reynolds observe how often literature and medicine combine to reveal the human dilemma. Their anthology offers numerous examples that "witness and record the isolation and alienation that come eventually to all of us."
Stone's unpublished project, "A Bridge across the Dark," chronicles his responses to the sudden illness and death in 1991 of his wife of thirty years, Sarah Lucretia Crymes. He read excerpts from the work at Emory University in 1996. His final published work, Music from Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems (2004), includes poems exploring the poet's relationship with his mother, his travels to the Middle East, and his love of classical music.
Stone also wrote or coedited several medical texts, including Principles and Practices of Emergency Medicine (1978).
Stone died in Atlanta of cancer on November 6, 2008.
Contemporary Authors, vols. 89-92 (Detroit: Gale, 1980) s.v. "Stone, John."
Michael Heffernan, "A Conversation with John Stone, Physician and Poet," Midwest Quarterly 26 (winter 1985).
Sally Harris Sange, "On John Stone," Southern Review 27 (spring 1991).
Anita Sharpe, "The Doctor as Poet: John Stone's Theme Is 'Listen to Patients'," Wall Street Journal, March 3, 1998.
William J. Walsh, "John Stone," Speak So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern Writers (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1990).
Gary Kerley, North Hall High School
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.