Between Glances


Andrew Lansdown


William Heinemann Australia (Port Melbourne), 1993

Paperback, 81 pages

ISBN 0-85561-517-6




Back cover blurb

“Lansdown uses words with masterly precision to paint things as we have not previously seen them, but as we may be tempted to see them henceforth.”

            Rod Moran, Fremantle Arts Review


“At his best Lansdown is able to suggest very deftly and concisely the so-called ‘thisness’ of things …”

             Geoff Page, Canberra Times


“No Australian poet is so often moved to celebrate as Andrew Lansdown is. His work brims with tenderness, wonder and joy, all qualities which are in short supply in the modern world of which he is an acute observer. Beneath his gaze common objects and every-day encounters glow with spiritual significance. Lansdown has few superiors as a technician: his use of sound in these poems is as striking as is their variety of form. This, his sixth and strongest collection, will enhance his growing reputation.”

            Les Murray


Awards for Between Glances


Adelaide Festival Awards – John Bray National Poetry Award

Between Glances won the John Bray National Poetry Award in 1994. This $12,500 award was the most important award of its kind at that time.

Below read the judges’/presenter’s comments at the award ceremony.

Speech Notes for Festival Awards Presentation Ceremony held on Sunday, 27 February 1994 at 5.30 pm

And now to the John Bray National Poetry Award.

The judging panel of:

Dr Graham Rowlands – poet and poetry editor

Ms Carol Treloar – critic

Mr Jeff Guess – poet

chose the following titles for their short-list of 6 from 92 collections of poems.

Mayflies in Amber by Diane Fahey, published by Angus & Robertson

Certain Things by Robert Gray published by William Heinemann Australia

Between Glances by Andrew Lansdown, published by William Heinemann Australia

On My Empty Feet by Rhyll McMaster, published by William Heinemann Australia

Spring Forest by Geoffrey Lehmann, published by Angus & Robertson

Up on All Fours by Philip Hodgins, published by Angus & Robertson …

Of Andrew Lansdown’s Between Glances, the judges comment that this collection is both radical and conservative. It reveals how traditional values can be put to new purposes. It hopes for the best only after some awareness of the worst. …

I would ask the Minister if she would announce the winner in the poetry category of the Festival Awards.


The winner of the John Bray National Award for Poetry is Andrew Lansdown for his collection of poems entitled Between Glances. …

Again, I would like to share with you a couple of the judges’ comments about this collection of Andrew Lansdown’s,

The judges note in particular, the poet’s vivid visual imagery throughout the collection but comment that his most striking imagery is a response to farming, forest and wilderness areas.

Some poems simply evoke flora and fauna; others interpret the natural world in terms of Biblical belief. Between these groups is probably the most extraordinary category of Between Glances – well made pieces that work as clear, sharp similes and metaphors but also ignite with light, colour and fire that Christian readers will see as epiphanies and other readers will acknowledge as memorable insights.

Incidentally you may recall that Andrew Lansdown’s book With My Knife was also short-listed for the Children’s Award. This commitment to children, and by extension family life is given expression in many of the poems centred around his young daughter.



The Inaugural Joseph Furphy Award for Poetry

Between Glances won the WA Fellowship of Australian Writer’s inaugural Winner, Joseph Furphy Award for poetry in 1994.


Poems from Between Glances


Between Glances

It is a liquidambar, the tree
I planted two months ago
beside my study. Green and
leafy then, it is almost bare

now. A little twiggy thing.
One red leaf flutters from it
like a child’s hand. For a week
it has been waving to me,

wanting my attention, trying
to tell me something unknown
to eucalypts and evergreens.
Something European or Japanese.

Something sad and deciduous.
That brave beautiful leaf,
beckoning the eyes as a flame
beckons the palms. All day

it has warmed me. Exquisite,
that small wind-chafed hand,
its familiar flutter. I glance
down at my work then out

again, only to find it gone.
Gone between glances. If only
I had known that last wave
was a goodbye, a farewell,

I would not have looked away.

© Andrew Lansdown



The sun is shining yet rain
is falling. Light rain,
like splinters of light,
floating down. Straight down,

no wind to waft it about.
Looking at the trees is like
looking through a faintly
scratched sheet of perspex.

Two children, not mine,
are running through the forest.

© Andrew Lansdown



I sing a rhyme for my daughter
of a teapot short and stout.
She mimes a clumsy kettle,
crooks a handle, points a spout.

The world is wide with danger,
my life is dark with doubt,
but a child commands me sweetly,
Come on Daddy, dance and shout!

Sometimes I sense my children
have turned my life about.
They top me up with gladness,
tip me over, pour me out.

© Andrew Lansdown


The Muff Bees

My daughter called them “muff bees”,
mistaking them for moths that sting.
But apart from the beauty of her name,
I had thought they were merely ugly,
the March flies, with their blowfly
bodies and cicada wings, their
bulging eyes and long proboscises.
They look like homunculi in gas masks
or bug-eyed children with straws
in their mouths. With those inflexible
trunks, they are tiny winged elephants,
the Dumbos of the insect world.

In the shade of a karri one autumn
I swatted dozens of the suckers
as they came for the blood
that happened to be in my legs. It was
a slaughter. It was a satisfaction.
Inspecting their bodies, I found the pests
guilty of ugliness, their iridescent-
green eyes compounding their crime.

But this afternoon I saw one
hovering in a shaft of sunlight,
its body buoyant, its wings burring,
its proboscis protruding in exact
proportion to its other parts
and angled exquisitely
according to the tilt of the head.
It was like a humming bird.
It was, without a murmur, a muff bee.

© Andrew Lansdown


Reviews of Between Glances

Untitled Review

by David Kelly


Between Glances, Andrew Lansdown (William Heinemann Australia)


The back cover blurb proclaims that ‘no Australian poet is so often moved to celebrate as Andrew Lansdown is. His work brims with tenderness, wonder and joy, all qualities which are in short supply in the modern world of which he is an acute observer.’

      He sometimes drops in on the modern world—he does mention aeroplanes, money belts (bum bags), cafes and black bitumen—but the things which most move him to poetry (or move him to what seems to be his most intensely felt poetry) are the more eternal things of the natural world like birds, lizards, flowers or weather. I can’t help linking him in my mind to Gerard Manly Hopkins. Some of the more famous lines of Hopkins came into memory as I read through Between Glances—lines like ‘The world is charged with the glory of God./ It will flame out like shining from shook foil’ or ‘There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.’

      Andrew is indeed a celebrator yet at times, to be honest, the celebrating wears a little heavy. For if the world is charged with the glory of God it is also dusted with the work of the bloke with the pitchfork. We are constantly confronted with his offerings on the television news, the daily papers, the petty conflicts in every workplace and the sad spectacle of amputees begging in wheelchairs at bus stops and train stations.

      Still, many of the directly celebrative poems are very, very good and I did feel good after reading the book. So maybe celebration is addictive. The book is also one of those very rare ones that doesn’t let up. I started at the first poem and kept going, turning page upon page until the last poem and the last celebratory line: 

the rainbow enfolds us like a promise. 

      Even so, tension and frustration and conflict and disappointment are inescapable parts of life and their portrayal and their resolution are the basis of much of the best writing and art. It is as if Lansdown wants to forget the ugly, the sordid, the unhappiness. Even when he sees it, it is not major unhappiness. There is a wonderful poem called ‘Kangaroos’ which tells of three kangas in a paddock bounding towards a fence. The first (and biggest) clears the fence; his two smaller companions can’t. They are separated. The two smaller ones race along the wire fence desperate for a way through. A simple situation but the feeling of frustration that comes out to empathise with the trio creates a richer and more complex response (while still celebrating kangaroos) than would a poem which single-mindedly presented kangaroos as evidence of the grandeur of God.

      Incidentally (no, more likely deliberately) there are two delightful lines in the kangaroos poem where the syllable stresses alternate in a lovely sing-song way and you can almost hear the kangaroos bounding and thumping along.

      While I don’t share Andrew Lansdown’s religious passions I never found the worship-presence off putting. I’m pretty certain that poetry readers who share his faith would feel it reinforced and validated upon reading these poems.

      Perhaps it is the faith and the need to celebrate that keeps him writing so much in the natural world. It may well be a lot harder to find evidence of God’s grandeur in money belts and aeroplanes and bitumen. He finds it from the aeroplane in two poems but doesn’t seem to find it in the aeroplane itself.

In technical terms he is a master of the restrained use of genuinely arresting imagery—a delight in correspondences to use one of his own phrases. Take ‘Waterbird’ for example. 



I appreciate that

it’s a waterbird

but it’s going

a bit overboard,


don’t you think?


—that heron

standing by the lake

with a kayak

strapped to its face! 

      There are many such image-moments in the book. The flight of fancy that creates such moments is of course the part of poetry that can’t be taught. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. Fortunately for us Andrew Lansdown’s got it. Still more fortunately he knows how to restrain it and how to build a poem of the right size around a few good images. He is also very subtle in the way he uses internal rhymes and half rhymes, alliteration, assonance and the repetition of words in slightly variant meanings or contexts. There are frequently sound echoes adding to the overall music in many of his poems. You’ll find many in a tight little nut of a poem like ‘Those Colours’. 

Those Colours


It is hardly beautiful, the bobtail

goanna. Its triangular head

is like a death adder’s. Ticks,

cream-coloured, hang at its ears

like enamelled pendants. I squat


for a closer look and it gapes

at me. Those colours: the pale pink

gums, the deep purple tongue and,

most unexpectedly, a yellow flower

blooming in the back of the throat. 

Between Glances won the 1994 John Bray National Poetry Award recently. Valued at $12,000 it is the highest paying award for a poetry book in Australia. There are many fine poems in the book; the title poem is particularly good; the miniscule ‘Praise’ sums up the recurrent theme of the book (and comes close to the ‘Red Wheelbarrow’ in the process); ‘Ducks in the Rain’ is among the liveliest and most enjoyable poems I’ve read in a long time. At a mere $14.95 Between Glances is great value. Let’s close with ‘Sonnet of Thanksgiving’, a mysterious and strangely moving poem which illustrates many of the qualities I’ve mentioned above: 

Sonnet of Thanksgiving


I wake, draw the curtains and am suddenly aware

that He is profligate, our God, giving us more

than we need, more than we ever dream to ask for.

Through the window on this winter morning, there


beside my house, the forest is faint with mist.

The white trees are like women standing half-seen

in a sauna. The bushes where the spiders have been

are strewn with ornaments for throat and wrist:


necklaces, bracelets strung with diamonds. A stark

and startling wealth, this jewellery the women

have put off. They stand in silent communion:

unadorned, white, bar the occasional birthmark.


And then in the stillness, the whiteness, the swirl,

a lone bird call. It hangs on the ear like a pearl.


This review by David Kelly was published in Five Bells (‘Australia’s monthly poetry magazine published by Poets’ Union Inc.’) in June 1994.



God and Landscapes: Andrew Lansdown: Between Glances & Rhyll McMaster: On My Empty Feet

by Mark Roberts

Between Glances by Andrew Lansdown, William Heinemann Australia 1993 and On My Empty Feet by Rhyll McMaster, William Heinemann Australia. First published in Overland 135, Winter 1994.

There is a simple delicacy to many of the poems in Andrew Lansdown’s sixth col­lection of poetry, Between Glances. Lans­down moves slowly through the landscape bringing a spiritual intensity to bear on the objects of everyday life. Many of his best poems grow out of a single image. In ‘Tea Chest’, for example, a robin drinking water out of a dis­carded tea chest is captured in the centre of the poem:

The late afternoon light
duplicates the bird’s shape darkly

in the still water as it stoops
to drink.

The poem is, in fact, almost a fable. Lansdown is suggesting that nature can transform a func­tional object which is perceived to have outlived its usefulness to an object of beauty and of a different functionality:

Truly, this moment, that tea chest
bears a cargo more precious than any

it carried long ago from India or Ceylon.

The title poem of the collection, ‘Between Glances’, operates on a similar level. The poet has been watching a single autumn leaf on a liquidambar tree all day:

… I glance
down at my work then out

again, only to find it gone.
Gone between glances. If only
I had known that last wave
was a goodbye, a farewell,

I would not have looked away.

While the transient nature of beauty obviously lies at the heart of this poem, ‘Between Glances’ can also be read as a fable where the falling leaf represents human mortality. Above all else Lansdown is a religious poet and, in the context of the rest of the collection, these ‘fables’ take on a distinct spiritual dimension.

Between Glances contains a number of more obviously religious poems. There is an uneven-ness to these poems which I feel is probably almost inevitable. Religious poetry is difficult to write and like many poets Lansdown does occa­sionally fall into cliche. However, Between Glances contains some of the best religious poetry I have read for some time.

For most of the collection Lansdown is content to write about his children and the natural land­scape, but in the last section there are a number of poems which grew out of a trip to Sydney. These poems lack some of the spiritual intensity which runs through the rest of the book, but I feel that they actually balance the more overtly religious nature poems.

After the softness of Lansdown’s poetry Rhyll McMaster’s third collection, On My Empty Feet, seems positively hard-edged. In the opening poem, ‘Figure in the Landscape’, we have a view of the landscape very different from Lansdown’s images of transient beauty …


© Mark Roberts



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