Monday, May 31, 2010

"Footprints of the recently departed": Remembering Randolph Stow and Hank Jones

"There are two sensations, above all, that the land offers me: the sense of size, and the sense of the past . . . In the cities one is fenced in by the personalities of others"
Randolph Stow.
Over the weekend I read some poetry by West Australian poet and novelist Randolph Stow in The Puncher and Wattman Anthology of Australian Poetry. I was taken by these lines from his poem The Lands Meaning:
"And the question (applauded, derided) falls like dust
on veranda and bar; and in pauses when thinking ceases,
the footprints of the recently departed
march to the mind's horizons, and endure".
Today the news that Randolph Stow, academic, novelist, poet and writer has died aged 74 (an obituary for Stow can be read here). Stow is best known for his novels set in Western Australian including To the Islands, The Merry Go Round in the Sea and The Suburbs of Hell, however I appreciate his poetry very much.


And indeed I shall anchor, one day—some summer morning
of sunflowers and bougainvillaea and arid wind—
and smoking a black cigar, one hand on the mast,
turn, and unlade my eyes of all their cargo;
and the parrot will speed from my shoulder, and white yachts glide
welcoming out from the shore on the turquoise tide.

And when they ask me where I have been, I shall say
I do not remember.

And when they ask me what I have seen, I shall say
I remember nothing.

And if they should ever tempt me to speak again,
I shall smile, and refrain.

copyright Randolph Stow

The American jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Hank Jones has also died, aged 91. I came to know of Hank Jones through his 1994 CD recorded with jazz bassist Charlie Haden titled Steal Away, which is a wonderful collection of spirituals, hymns and songs featuring Haden on bass and Jones on piano. It is a wonderfully evocative and intimate CD. Jones' playing is just sublime. I have been playing the CD over and over today and find myself deeply moved by the power and beauty of Hank Jones's interpretations of negro spirituals and hymns. There are obituaries of Jones here and here that tell of the extent of his achievements.

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