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.

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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’:

DANCER

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
perhaps 

 

© 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:

https://johnlooker.wordpress.com/extracts-from-the-human-hive-bennison-books-2015/

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 johnlooker.wordpress.com

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.

SongOfPaper

Amazon.com(https://amzn.to/2A8Pq3d)

Amazon UK(https://amzn.to/2NFTF9M)

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.

CynthiaJobin

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

 

You,

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

 BB

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. 

 

Posted by: John Looker | 26 August, 2018

‘Voices loud in martial prayer’

Each month this year, more or less, I am posting a poem from my book The Human Hive. This one is taken from Part Four, ‘Tribal Loyalties’ which considers the darker side of human nature. Although the poem describes a historic event, the culmination of religious conflict which in 1618 ignited the Thirty Years War in Europe, it seems painfully relevant to the world today.

The Defenestration of Prague

No blood here now, unless imagination
can paint the grey stone brown along the sill.
No water in the moat below, just grass.
And such a sense of peace.
It takes imagination to conceive
of how rough hands and over-certain minds,
calling on God but vying for civil power,
could hurl those men and all Bohemia with them
into a war of thirty years –
the Holy Roman Empire, dukedoms, fiefs,
cottage and mill – out of this room
of elegant refinement, out of this land 
of settled prosperity, into a world
where would-be theologians write their theses
with the sword, voices loud in martial prayer,
their conscience clear. 

© John Looker 2015

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

https://johnlooker.wordpress.com/extracts-from-the-human-hive-bennison-books-2015/

Posted by: John Looker | 22 July, 2018

In a Strange Land

In Strange Land

 

Passports :- Baggage :- Arrivals. And it’s bedlam!
A melée like a field of medieval battle,
shoving, shouting, scuffling,
the announcements and all the signs completely baffling,
and only this thought consoles:
that somewhere this pandemonium conceals
a chauffeur trying to be heard
and a well-dressed aide with a clear head.
Where are they though? Ten minutes. Thirty.
Only the hustlers remain, grabbing and hissing out “Taxi?”

… pitched on the bank of a river where the adult males
are fidgeting with spears … guarding a train of mules
through a strange bazaar … bringing the caravel
into a bay to be met by prowling canoes …

and they know (regressing to childhood prayer),
they know that they’re quarry, they’re prey.

 

© John Looker 2015

 

This is another poem from The Human Hive (Bennison Books, 2015), a collection of poems looking at life through the work that we do, down the ages and round the globe. This one comes from Part 3 which rejoices in international travel.

 

Posted by: John Looker | 21 June, 2018

Midsummer’s Night, a User’s Guide

A poem for the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere:

Listen: perhaps we’ll hear

the cold, pewter-coloured sea,
slapping on a Danish shore.

It’s late. The light is dying
slowly – imperceptibly –
and now the eye picks out

along the coast,
across the many fields,
the presence of bonfires, banishing primal fears.

Each one is ringed by ancient silhouettes,
tankards raised, singing as the pale sun sets.

Summer has crept to its own high-tide limit
where it lingers for weeks
before finally – stealthily –

ebbing away. Why do we note
this day rather than others,
all so hard to distinguish?

Turning our backs against the night,
draining our mead, we master

the things that we can.

© John Looker 2018 & 2010

First published in 2010, this is a poem that still means something to me.

Posted by: John Looker | 3 June, 2018

The Death of Pocahontas

I’m really grateful to Artemis journal (USA) for publishing this poem last month:

The Death of Pocahontas

This was the Thames, she had thought, not the Styx,

having sailed with the tide from London’s wharves
but berthed some miles downstream.

Gravesend, they said.
Not a name that augurs well. And then,
confined to her bunk in fever, back it all flowed:

not the spires and domes,
the forbidding Tower or the stinking streets,
the clangour of bells; not the Palace at Whitehall,
that warren of rooms, noisy and odorous
with courtiers in their wealth of clothing;
nor her presentation at Court.

In the half-light of her cabin – the ship restlessly
shifting with the water, its timbers groaning and cracking –
she lay weakening, her great adventure fading.

In her delirium she walked again the coast
where she was born; paddled its lagoons and creeks;
she breathed the thick humidity of summer nights thrumming
with insect life; heard voices in her own language
whispering of still-unrelinquished beliefs
and her secret name spoken. 

They had taken on board fresh water, supplies
for a dozen weeks at sea but were moored here, aghast,
watching, her great adventure prematurely fading.

And yet – such a journey! Even the snow goose,
appearing on the lakes of her native land each fall,

travels merely in time and space.

© John Looker 2018

This is the last of ten poems that consider historic or legendary journeys, to be the opening part of a book in draft entitled “Shimmering Horizons”. Other poems from the draft book have been published in other journals and anthologies. Artemis journal, founded in 1977,  publishes poetry and art ‘from the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond’ – see artemisjournal.org

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