Monday, January 11, 2021

Andrew Lansdown*

Andrew Lansdown is one of Australia’s most-significant poets. The newest of his 15 poetry collections has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books ― Abundance: New & Selected Poems. I am honoured to have edited this important collection with Andrew, and am pleased to be able to help expand his influence in North America. In Australia his poetry has won a number of prestigious awards, including the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (twice), and the Adelaide Festival of Arts’ John Bray National Poetry Award.

In A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry, Geoff Page wrote:
----------Lansdown is able to suggest very deftly and concisely
----------the so-called ‘thisness’ of things, especially things
----------in nature… Lansdown has a very sincere and direct way
----------of handling poems about his immediate family which
----------subtly suggests great tenderness without becoming
----------sentimental… They have a descriptive exactness and a
----------seeming spontaneity, combining to produce a text to
----------which one can imagine no change being made without damage.

In recent years, Lansdown has explored his fascination with Japanese poetry and culture ― writing in Japanese forms such as Haiku and Tanka, honouring Basho and other influential Japanese poets, and visiting Japan to encounter its cherry-blossom beauty and the hollow solitude of Buddhist shrines.

The following poem first appeared in The McMaster Journal of Theology & Ministry.

The Martyred Mother

i.m. Hashimoto Tecla and her children, Kyoto, 1619 AD

I speak not of the other four children
who were condemned with her, nor even of
the newest child in her womb, but only
of the smallest one bound to her bosom.

One might have imagined the rope would burn
through fast so the baby’s body would fall
away from hers—slump free from the torso
to which it was tied as if to a stake.

And yet it seems the persecutors’ cord
bore the flames better than the martyrs’ flesh.
Perhaps they had soaked that rope in water
before they wrapped it around their victims.

Still, hemp’s surely coarser, tougher than flesh.
How long would it take for flames to fray it?
Longer, I guess, than it would take to melt
fat in an infant’s cheek, a woman’s breast.

Whether wet or dry, thick or thin, that rope
held out long enough for the flames to fuse
the child to its mother’s chest, meld the two
into one greasy charred misshapen lump.

On the fumie the faithful won’t trample
the carved Madonna clasps the destined Child—
in like manner, but with bound and burned arms,
the martyred mother held her infant fast.

And in this embrace both she and the babe
defied the shogun and exposed his shame.
Their souls rode up in palanquins of smoke,
up to their Sovereign, who wept as they came.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Andrew Lansdown: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.