Posted by: John Looker | 14 September, 2019

Poems for Europe

It was nice to come home from holiday and find the new Poetry Salzburg Review waiting on the mat – a great big fat volume of new poems. And this issue includes three from me – one being my ‘Serenade for Europe’.

This poem is a companion piece to ‘The Descent of Europe’ which Magma kindly published last year in their Europe issue.

Neither poem is directly about Brexit or the EU, but both are celebrations of Europe as a place and a culture, one being a historical view, the other geographical. I’m grateful to both journals for giving them a place.

In due course I shall post the new poem here on WordPress. ‘The Descent of Europe’ is already here at:

Posted by: John Looker | 20 April, 2019

A haiku for Spring


The bluebells are here.

Immaterial as ghosts

that drift through a room.



© John Looker 2019

Posted by: John Looker | 24 March, 2019

The Naturalist


Spring unleashed: the valley green again,
    bird song contending in the clear air –
        and a boy turning over decaying logs.

How old the world is:
    this goldfinch a spark from the Cretaceous,
        these hills moulded by the last great ice age.

And the boy turning over logs
    (poised to seize that lizard
        or the beetle scrambling under moist leaves)

is one of the world’s newest tenants
    looking down at some of its oldest
        in wonder.

He might have been a young tribesman
    kneeling in the tinder-dry grass of the prairie
        keenly setting traps

or huntsman fingering fresh prints
    on a wet jungle track, his pulse quickening,
        and wondering, calculating.

He’s fired up with curiosity,
    hard-wired to observe, to deduce;
        he’s down close – but his mind is in orbit.


© John Looker 2018


Dedicated to a grandson and one of the poems in my recent book Poems for my Family (Bennison Books 2018, through Amazon).


Posted by: John Looker | 3 March, 2019

In the Caves at Nerja


As we enter the cave – the rocky floor
leading us down, and down again,
among the stalagmites and stalactites
– we are drawn to the deep past
where humankind
lived out its long, long infancy
by a now-forgotten shore.

The caverns are displayed by electric light.
So novel, so new.
For thousands of years
there was only the wavering glow
and the tricksy shadows
from a burning brand, and straining sight.

What might their lives have been like? Short
of course, with hyenas contending for the caves,
disease and the struggle for food:
pine nuts and snails, we learn, were big in their diet;
fish or meat when something was caught.

And yet:
and yet there was Art, or so we deduce.
Was it the women or was it the men
who splayed their hands against the cold rock wall,
blowing their pigments of black and red
across those templates of flesh and blood?
Who was it who painted these bison and deer,
these lifelike horses, these seals?
Who then stood back to admire the image as it set?

And although we look down, as it were, from above
we feel there must have been music and song.
Here in this chamber the stalactites ring
with discernible notes; some appear to be tuned –
that is scraped, or pared – for the ear.
Was there play? Was there laughter?
And, may we reasonably ask, how about love?


© John Looker 2015 


This comes from the final section of my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books, 2015 – through Amazon, currently at £2.99 and US$3.99). The book as a whole considers life through the prism of work and other activity; I have been posting a selection of the poems over the past year.


Posted by: John Looker | 30 December, 2018

The Night Shift

The world is turning 
and a longitudinal arc dips slowly 
away from the sun towards the darkness. 
Somewhere along this littoral lies our city.
The city never wholly closes down. 
Although in countless homes they're mostly sleeping, 
elsewhere there's someone working through till dawn. 
Consider the light, or rather 
the lights, for sources are many and varied: 
from the steady moonlight of shop windows 
to the constellations of street lamps strung out 
along the tarmac
and traffic lights winking. 
And here, look, the headlamps of law enforcement: 
a police car on conspicuous patrol, watchful 
as the late-night revellers 
give way to the Night's own players. ... ...

© John Looker 2015 

From time to time I have been posting extracts from my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books 2015, through Amazon). These are the opening lines from a long poem entitled The Night Shift. The book itself considers life through the prism of people at work. 

My best wishes to you all for a happy new year – there’s always hope.

Posted by: John Looker | 25 November, 2018

Under an Ancient Sky

The music of the spheres? Maybe in our memory
or psyche there linger still small signs and souvenirs.
The passing years bestowed – century by century –
a comforting inheritance: faith soothing fears.

Man or woman – in the night, unquiet, insecure –
we’re visited by creatures from the cave, archetypes
out of the shadows, nightmares or familiar Furies
riding hard. Immured in our small rooms like anchorites

murmuring remembered prayers or mantras, undermining
doubts, we smile, put on lights. Slowly our poise reappears.
The soul or inner ear searches still for those sublime
harmonies of antique times, for music of the spheres.


© John Looker 2018

Cynthia Jobin once experimented with this fiendishly complex form and challenged others to have a go. I began writing some lines but didn’t complete them. Others of her WordPress friends did better and posted poems. Now, two years after her death, I’ve tinkered with my earlier draft and here’s the result.

The form, Cynthia explained to bemused followers, was an Irish Droigneach (pronounced, she told us, dray-ee-nock). Each line comprises nine to thirteen syllables, ending in a trisyllabic word (I cheated a bit here). Alternate lines should rhyme and there are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet. There is alliteration in each line, especially between the final word and the preceding stressed word. There may be any number of quatrains but the poem should end by repeating the syllable, word, or line with which it began. 

There has to be good reason for writing in a form as punitively exacting as this. Don’t try it! 

Posted by: John Looker | 30 October, 2018

Impossible not to dream

From time to time, I have been posting a poem from my book The Human Hive. This one is taken from Part 5, ‘States of Mind’:


She turns and takes a final look at the room:
the mirrors across the wall, the well-sprung floor.
If you ignore the lights, it’s like a womb
where music finds embodiment in dance.
Re-living the last half-hour, she shuts the door. 

What did they think of that?

This was the feared audition, the longed-for chance.
Those weeks, let’s say the years, of preparation
had worked their alchemy: as though entranced
her mind and the music fused, her body became
line and shape, gesture, and lightness of motion. 

Surely they will recognise, at last,
my true potential?           

She feels so alive! She wants, she needs, this same
exhilaration daily in her life,
to burst out from the chrysalis, break the chain
at the prison door, to give her talents space
to dance on a wider stage, with a full spotlight. 

So near,
so very close,
impossible not to dream.

Back in the street she finally slows her pace.
There’s someone to phone … then coffee …
and a walk in the park


© John Looker 2015

‘The Human Hive’ was published in 2015 by Bennison Books and is available through Amazon at their minimum price. You can also read a selection of its poems here on this blog – see the page at:

Posted by: John Looker | 21 October, 2018

I’m changing my WordPress address

I am changing the web address for my blog to reflect the name in the title the site: John Looker.

I am very grateful to those of you who kindly follow my blog and I hope that I might still retain your interest. But when my poetry started appearing in publications, four years ago, I adopted the pen name of John Looker. Later I changed the title of the blog to ‘Poetry from John Looker’.

The address however has remained in the past. It is time to bring it into line – especially as the address looks most anomalous in Twitter and Facebook. From today the address becomes

WordPress offer a service of redirecting searches to a new address, and I am going to buy into that. I hope it works! And I hope my WordPress friends don’t find this too irritating.

Posted by: John Looker | 14 October, 2018

the poetry of Cynthia Jobin

Cynthia Jobin, who died nearly two years ago, wrote some deeply moving and thoughtful verse. The independent publisher Bennison Books has now published a posthumous volume of her poetry. I’m pleased to give space on my blog to the following post from them.


Guest post from Bennison Books

Readers of John’s blog may already be familiar with the New England poet Cynthia Jobin, whose poetry attracted many followers worldwide. Admirers of her work will be delighted to learn that a collection of her poetry, Song of Paper,has just been published by Bennison Books.


Amazon UK(

Shortly before her death in late 2016, Cynthia entrusted her poetic legacy to John and Bennison Books welcomed the opportunity to work with him in producing this posthumous collection of her poetry. John also wrote the introduction to Song of Paper, an excerpt from which appears below.

Excerpt from John’s introduction

Cynthia Jobin’s poetry is skilfully crafted and both erudite and accessible. She wrote about the mysteries of life, her grief following the death of her partner of 43 years, love and friendship, the joy of pets and the landscape of New England. She also translated French poetry. There was a depth of feeling and an unobtrusive intellect at work, but equally a lightness of touch and humour. The poems in this collection show that variety of theme and equally her range of tone; she would write just for fun as well as with serious intent.

When reading a new poem from Cynthia Jobin I have always had that comfortable feeling of being in good hands: we know that the verses are going to be impeccably crafted but we can’t predict what path they will take.

I am sure that new readers and old friends alike will discover this for themselves on reading this collection. The title, Song of Paper, comes from the opening poem and feels so apposite. The closing poem, which was also the last she ever posted in life, and which shows humour even in the midst of wisdom and courage, is an immensely moving reflection from someone who knew herself to be very close to death.


Cynthia Jobin

Below are extracts from two poems included in this collection and the full version of ‘To a Tulip’.


Extract from ‘The Palpable Obscure’:


Once a day, at least, I stop to wonder

where you are.  I do not think of

you as being here.  Except, tonight


a heightening of powers in the darkness

wants to break November from October

with a cold slap and a small wail in the wind.

Something more than me, something much

more sure that you abide, this night, brings

you, in ways that I can almost touch.




Extract from ‘Riviera Reverie’:


The boy cat, all noblesse oblige,

takes his reserved, tacitly acknowledged place.


Drawn to their warm, imaginary blankets

spread upon the floor, these beloved creatures


bring to mind the worshipful habitués

of Côte d’Azur, Côte d’Or. As the sun reaches


they respond, grab on, luxuriate

and, for this brief moment, even teach.


Should a phone call come for any one of them

I’ll say they are away, gone to the beach.




To a Tulip



yellow flower

standing in a cobalt vase,

unfurling blades,

stemmed sacramental cup –

winter was hard

but now your simple grace

is green announcement:

things are looking up.

There by the window you

to sunlight are the antiphon,

beauty new as beauties past,

spring’s insistence

life should carry on.

Yet you become

most beautiful at last,

when age and death are

what you must fulfill:

come that night

you can no longer

close against the dark,

you open wide until

you are all heart,

and every petal knows

translucence as it falls.

You could be hinting

how to do it, for us all.



Copyright Cynthia Jobin estate; Bennison Books


Posted by: John Looker | 16 September, 2018

With These Rings

With These Rings ...

   ... we (now fifty years ago!)
   us wed.

Two rings fresh-minted, blazoning out Just-Married
and we fresh-faced with nothing in the bank
and a flat in – marvellous name! – Hope Park.

   See how they’ve been transmuted as Time
   has fled:

scratched and worn, too tight or prudently enlarged.
And we? Weather-beaten & harrowed. But you lovely as ever
though your heart is limping; it’s those years of generous loving.

   Scenes from the life we have made go round 
   in my head. 

I had thought of saying we were goldsmiths
working away at the same task, getting it wrong, getting it right,
but no – it’s more like alchemy: how did I find such gold?

   Me, thou – darling woman, I do so love
   us wed!

© John Looker 2018

Yes, my wife and I have reached our Golden Wedding Anniversary and I am immensely fortunate. 


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