Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell to Three Poets Named John

Year 2008 ends with southern readers and writers forced to say farewell to three of our finest poets, all three named John. They are: (1) Jonathan Williams born March 8, 1929 in Asheville, North Carolina who died March 16, 2008 in Highlands, N.C. (2) John Foster West born December 10, 1918 in Wilkes County N.C. who died May 2, 2008. (3) physician poet, John Stone born February 7, 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi who died at his home near Atlanta on November 6, 2008.

Jonathan Williams, John Foster West, and John Stone were sons of the south, yet each became internationally known, making his mark as a poet. Poetry was greatly loved by these men, but being a poet was only a part of each of their profound lives.

Besides being an accomplished poet, Jonathan Williams was a world famous publisher and owner of The Jargon Society Press, the most renowned small presses in America. Many writers began their careers under his patronage, including Robert Creeley. Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Mina Loy and Jeffery Beam. Williams’s published work includes: An Ear in Bartram’s Tree (1969 U.N.C. Press), Blues& Roots/Rue & Bluets (1971 Grossman; 1985 Duke University) Quote, Unquote (1989 Ten Speed Press) A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude (2002 David ) The Magpie’s Bagpipe (1982 North Point) Blackbird Dust (2000 Turtle Point) Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems with over 1000 of his poems (2005 Copper Canyon Press.) The Jargon Society archives are housed in Poetry and Rare Books at State University of New York, Buffalo, New York.

John Foster West is one of the most well known poets of the Southern Appalachian Region. Although I did not know him well, he invited me to read at Appalachian State as poet of the creative writing program in 1985. I have never forgotten his friendly southern manner. West was “the beloved teacher” to his students. He taught English for forty-two years before retiring from Appalachian State University in 1991 as professor emeritus. John Foster West’s poetry collections are: This Proud Land, Wry Wine and High Noon at Pompeii. He was well known for his novels: Time Was (Random House 1965) Appalachian Dawn (Random House 1973 ) The Summer People (1989 Appalachian Consortium Press) The Ballad of Tom Dula (1990 Moore Publishing). His novel, Time Was was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. John Foster West’s papers are housed at Appalachian State University.

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. His death this past fall stunned many. Only family and close friends knew he was ill. I first met John Stone at Callanwolde Fine Art Center in Atlanta when he served on the Poetry Committee. I heard him read his poems and speak at writing conferences many times around the south. Most recently, I heard him as the Byron Herbert Reese Speaker at Harris College. Those who knew John Stone say he loved and studied poetry all of his life. Dr. Stone had been heard to quote William Carlos Williams in saying that "he was married to medicine but that poetry was his mistress." As a poet, John Stone’s work was widely published. Louisiana State University Press counted him as their own. L.S. U. Press is where you will want to go if searching for his poetry collections: The Smell of Matches, (1972, and 1989), In All this Rain (1980) Renaming the Streets (1985) Where Water Begins: New Poems and Prose (1998) Music from Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems (2004) . In 1990 Dell published In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine, a collection of
essays . The book was reprinted by LSU Press in 1996. Dr. Stone co edited On Doctoring: Stories, Poems and Essays (Simon & Schuster 1991). More than 200,000 copies have been distributed to American medical students.

Jonathan Williams, John Foster West, Dr. John Stone: They are gone, these three phenomenal poets. They will be remembered. Their words shall endure.

3 comments:

Glenda C. Beall said...

Great post, Nancy, on three fine poets. I only knew the work of John Stone, but I was very impressed with him.
Thanks for this informative article on three greats.

sarah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Sarah

http://www.thetreadmillguide.com

Nancy Simpson said...

Sarah, Thanks for the comment. You are welcome here "above the frost line" Visit often. Are you a poet?