Comment by John Jenkins
Writing in Island magazine, the Australian poet John Jenkins recently made the following observations about Andrew and his poem “Leaf and Load”:
Andrew Lansdown struck me, too, as being particularly gracious to his fellow readers. Sympathetic and sensitive, he was always interested in how a poem someone read came about, its inspiration and means; its sources and resources. He had an acute ear and was, clearly, a marvellous listener. He showed me a poem of his, “Leaf and Load”, which I have used in creative writing workshops: a model of direct observation, about a leaf which bends under the weight of a swollen droplet of water during a storm. It is simple, yet exquisite, Zen-like in its clarity and attention to detail. For a second, this poem communicates what we know to be impossible: the direct apprehension of subject matter—a leaf bowed by a rain-drop—somehow unmediated by poet, poem or language; as if artifice could simply erase itself, leaving only the presence of reality. In my opinion, Lansdown remains the doyen, in Australia, of this sort of exquisite, small-scale, nature poem. Easy to attempt, devilishly hard to do!
This is an excerpt from John Jenkins’ recollections of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival in 1994, written to celebrate the Festival’s 25th anniversary, and published as part of a multi-part essay, “Written in Silver: The Tasmanian Poetry Festival”, published in Island, No. 121, Winter 2010, pp. 50-51.
The poem, “Leaf and Load”, to which John Jenkins refers is:
Leaf and Load
The rain is breaking its phials
on the ornamental plum. From
the verandah I choose a leaf,
glistening with wet, and watch
until each vein becomes a rill
running into the midrib-river
and on to the leaf’s tip
where the waters gather in a blister
to weight the leaf downwards
by imperceptible degrees. Slipping
from the chlorophyll plane, the rain-
drop hangs from the leaf-tip
as a ball-bearing might hang
from the point of a magnet, held
by the barest contact between
curve and cusp. Like a miniature
transparent balloon tied by a child
to a tap, the drop swells,
bulges with a fragile elasticity,
bowing the leaf with its growing load,
until loosed at last by gravity.
Released, the leaf leaps up,
shudders to an easy equilibrium
in the light, impacting rain.
© Andrew Lansdown
First published in the literary magazine Westerly, “Leaf and Load” is included in Andrew’s poetry collections The Grasshopper Heart (1991) and Birds in Mind (2009).