Randolph Stow was a West Australian writer and is the subject of the NSW Writers’ Centre event Honouring: Randolph Stow at the NSW State Library on Saturday 29 August 2015. To read an introduction to these research materials, click here.
A Haunted Land, Macdonald, 1956
The Bystander, Macdonald 1957
To the Islands, Macdonald, 1958. Republished Text Classics, 2015
Tourmaline, Macdonald, 1963. Text Classics, 2015
The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea, Macdonald, 1965. Penguin 2008
Midnite: The Story of a Wild Colonial Boy, Macdonald, 1967. Penguin 2004
Visitants, Secker & Warburg, 1979. Text Classics 2015
The Girl Green as Elderflower, Secker & Warburg, 1980. Text Classics 2015
The Suburbs of Hell, Secker & Warburg, 1984. Text Classics 2015
Randolph Stow:Visitants, Episodes from Other Novels, Poems, Stories, Interviews, and Essays. Ed Anthony J Hassall, UQP 1990
‘The Case for Randolph Stow’s To The Islands’, Suzie Gibson, The Conversation, 24 June 2014. Suzie Gibson is a Lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University
‘Visitants: Randolph Stow’s End Time Novel. Transnational Literature’, Nicholas Jose, Vol. 3 no.2, May 2011 http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2328/15243/Visitants.pdf?sequence=1
The article includes many references to other articles written about Stow and Visitants. Nicholas Jose says of the book:
‘Visitants is a visionary attempt to enfold history and myth as a way of transcending cultural difference. Its tragic awareness acknowledges the failure of the enterprise: a limit to a certain kind of literary imagination. Stow’s recognition of what does not return from crossing makes Visitants an end point. In its imaginative attempt to escape its own locatedness, it comes up against that very same locatedness as a grief-laden apprehension. It is impossible to devise a position apart from, free of, the weight of colonising, colonised relationships.’
‘Vanishing Wunderkind – the great oeuvre of the enigmatic Stow’, Tony Hassell, Australian Book Review Sept 2009. In it Hassell writes –
‘As Gregory Kratzmann pointed out in the July-Aug 2009 issue of Australian Book Review, ‘Amnesia about writers of the past, even the not too distant past is one of the besetting ills of our culture.’ It would be a sad loss to that culture if its amnesia were to extend to Stow’s defining contributions to it. A private rather than a social observer, he confronts us, in achingly beautiful writing, with men who are alone, adrift in the outback, the desert or the jungle, searching for peace within themselves and with God. Like their search for love, their search for personal reconciliation is seldom rewarded, but always intensely and empathically imagined. His novels and poetry embody a uniquely rich and strange account of the land and people of Australia that we can ill afford to lose.’ Australian Book Review, Sept 2009, p 31.
In 2014 Sydney University launched Reading Australian Literature, a series of lectures in which contemporary author speak about Australian books they value.
Jane Gleeson-White’s (author of Classics and Australian Classics) blogged about Drusilla Modjeska talk on Stow’s Visitants. http://bookishgirl.com.au/2014/09/03/drusilla-modjeska-does-randolph-stows-visitants-reading-australian-literature-2014/
The Reading Australian Literature series is continued in 2015.
Act One: Poems, Macdonald, 1957
Outrider: Poems, 1956-1962, Macdonald, 1962
Poems from “The Outrider” and other Poems. Australian Artists and Poets Booklets No.9, Australian Letters, 1963
Australian Poetry 1964. Selected by Randolph Stow, Angus & Robertson, 1964
A Counterfeit Silence: Selected Poems, Angus & Robertson, 1969
Randolph Stow Reads From His Own Work. Poets on Record series No.11. UQP, 1974. Includes the poems Dust, The Utopia of Lord Mayor Howard, Ruins of the City of Hay, Wine, Landscapes, Sleep, A Feast, Ishamel, Enkidu.
The Land’s Meaning, Ed John Kinsella, Fremantle Press, 2012.
‘The Land’s Meaning – The Poetry of Randolph Stow’ on Radio National program Poetica, includes readings of his poetry: Ruins of the City of Hay read by Stow and Seashells and Sandalwood and For One Dying by Penny Sutherland, a WA based friend of Stow’s.
Alison Croggan’s review of The Land’s Meaning and a wider discussion of his work in Overland, Sept 2013. In it she writes:
Stow is mostly noted for his silences – his long literary silences, which lasted decades, and the silence at the heart of his poetic. As he said, in a note in Alexander Craig’s landmark anthology Twelve Poets, “I really have nothing to say about poetry in general (except that mine tries to counterfeit the communication of those who communicate by silence). And these poems are mostly private letters.”
Esteemed poet and winner of the Patrick White Award and Blake Poetry Prize, Robert Adamson is a great fan of Stow’s work:
‘Randolph Stow was a great writer, A Counterfeit Silence is one of the most important and powerful books of poetry written by an Australian. I love this book and have been reading it constantly since 1969 when it was first published. Stow, with his sly humour and indelible images, beautifully written lines and stanzas, will continue to sustain readers and poets for as long as there are copies of his books available. He lives on in my imagination and I see his world expand each time I take a look into the dark tide of his poetry.’
Adamson wrote a poem for Randolph Stow, Internal Weather, which appears in the Cordite Poetry Review http://cordite.org.au/poetry/jackpot/internal-weather/
Susan Wyndham in the Sydney Morning Herald also published Adamson’s poem and a detailed explanation from Adamson about the allusions in the poem
West Australian poet and author Dorothy Hewett writes about Stow in ‘Silence, Exile and Cunning: The Poetry of Randolph Stow’ in Westerly Vol. 33, No. 2, 1988, June. http://westerlymag.com.au/issue-content/silence-exile-and-cunning-the-poetry-of-randolph-stow/
Caitlin Maling reviews The Land’s Meaning, a collection of Stow’s poetry edited by John Kinsella, (Fremantle Press 2012), in Cordite Poetry Review. http://cordite.org.au/reviews/maling-stow-kinsella/
William Yeoman reviews The Land’s Meaning in The West Australian: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/entertainment/a/14954327/dynamic-poet-of-the-land/
Books about Stow
An excerpt of the book appears in Sydney Review of Books.
Another excerpt can be read in the Sydney Morning Herald here.
A review of the book by Bernadette Brennan appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Gabrielle Carey Moving Among Strangers, published by UQP, 2013
Carey says of the book ‘This book is not a biography. Neither is it a work of literary analysis or scholarly enquiry. It is more like a ‘mostly private letter’, to use Stow’s phrase, written out of curiosity, and tenderness towards a man whom I have come to think of as an almost-relative, a dear friend of my mother’s, and the ideal literary mentor.’
Bernadette Brennan says of Stow in her thoughtful review of Moving Among Strangers –
‘Stow, like so many writers and artists of the twentieth century, strove to convey the shape and vitality of silence. He struggled with the paradoxical nature of language, with the idea that there are too many words and yet these words lack the capacity to express the writer’s intent.’
Before publishing Moving Among Strangers, Gabrielle Carey wrote an essay for Kill Your Darlings no. 12 based on the inaugural Randolph Stow Memorial Lecture, which she gave at the University of Western Australia in 2011. ‘Randolph Stow: An Ambivalent Australian’
Geordie Williamson’s wonderful and enlightening The Burning Library: Our Great Novelists Lost and Found (Text, 2012) includes a chapter on Stow and his important place in our literary landscape.
Anthony J. Hassall, Strange Country: A Study of Randolph Stow (UQP, revised edition, 1990)
Anthony J. Hassall, Randolph Stow (UQP, 1990)
Obituaries and Tributes in response to Stow’s death
A beautiful memorial celebration was held for Randolph (Mick) Stow at the University of WA on 24 August 2010. It was organised by Dennis Haskell, Emeritus Professor of English and include tributes from family members, colleagues and friends. It was an impressive event with staged readings of his work, a quartet, and recordings of Stow reading his poetry. Gabrielle Carey said that is was the best literary event she had ever been to. You can hear a recording of the event here – https://researchdataonline.research.uwa.edu.au/handle/123456789/1045
Roger Averill’s obituary of Randolph Stow appeared in The Age. Roger Averill has been working on a biography of Stow.
Dennis Haskell, Emeritus Professor of English, UWA and William Grono, literary historian and a close friend of Stow’s wrote the obituary in The Australian:
On her blog Reeling and Writhing, Genevieve Tucker, wrote a beautiful piece in response to Stow’s death and collected responses from writers such as John Kinsella, Robert Adamson, Roger Averill, and Stephen Romei. http://austlit.typepad.com/cfn/2010/06/randolph-stow-19352010.html
The November 2010 edition of Westerly, UWA’s literary journal, included a tribute to Randolph Stow with articles about him and two of his poems. The issue can be downloaded for free from their website. It includes articles by Anthony Hassell, Roger Averill, and Gabrielle Carey’s article about writing Moving Among Strangers before the book was published. In Carey says:
‘I want to know where this man sits in our cultural-literary consciousness. I want to know whether we are fully aware and appreciative of the great literary inheritance that his work embodies. Or is this a gift that we have left half-opened as we wish to celebrate the Young, the New and the Not-so-difficult?’ p117 Westerly vol 55:2
‘Maybe the truth is that where White and Lawson reflect the Australian consciousness, Stow reflects more of the mysterious, dark and difficult-to-know consciousness. If that’s the case, then his work warrants our attention all the more.’ p118 Westerly, vol 55:2
In his article, Story of a (Post) Colonial Boy, p 121, Roger Averill says: ‘In many ways Randolph Stow was a solitary figure, someone content with his own company, happier in silence than in small talk. The fact that he published five novels and two volumes of poetry and had won the Miles Franklin Award before he was 30, and that after turning 50 he more or less maintained a writerly silence, means his life was also strikingly singular.’
In his article, Averill says of the biography he is working on ‘…one of the central themes in my biography of Stow will be the tension between his sense of belonging to and his abiding interest in a family with a long and troubled colonial history, and his recurring experience of feeling like a bystander. In this way, his highly singular life will be seen to be in part a response to, but also a variation of, the family history that so captured and worried his imagination. ‘ p141 Westerly, vol 55:2
The next issue of Westerly will be launched 17 July 2015 and will include photography from Randolph Stow compiled in an essay from Kate Rendell.
Film and Radio Programs
Rachel Ward has been working for a long time on getting a film made of Tourmaline. It has just received development funding in the latest Screen Australia round. Produced by Sue Taylor and Bryan Brown, the film will be written and directed by Rachel Ward. http://www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au/item/33622
In the 80s poet Richard Tipping made a series of video interviews with Australian writers (including David Malouf, Peter Porter and Les Murray) and produced ‘Randolph Stow A Country of Islands’ in 1985. They series was screened by the ABC in 1986 and 1987. Copies are held in the National Library, Screen Australia and the State Library of NSW. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy by Richard Tipping, an excerpt of which will be played at our Honouring event with Richard talking about the experience of making the documentary. The documentary was filmed on location in Suffolk and at Stow’s home in East Anglia and was funded by the Australia Council.
Radio National’s The Bookshow reflected on Stow’s legacy with Dennis Haskell poet, Emeritus Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia and former chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council talks to Ramona Koval about Stow’s legacy.
The Randolph Stow Memorial Lecture
The Randolph Stow Memorial Lecture is presented by the University of Western Australia every two years. This first was given by Gabrielle Carey in 2011. Professor John Kinsella gave the lecture in 2013 and discussed the poems he was unable to include in the collection of Stow’s poems, The Land’s Meaning (Fremantle Press, 2012). The next lecture will be given this year, with the speaker will be announced soon.
Andrew Ross, currently Artistic Director of Darwin Festival, adapted Tourmaline and Merry-Go-Round in the Sea for Black Swan Theatre Company.
Randolph Stow: Photo Essay by Graeme Kinross-Smith, Deakin University