Posted by: John Looker | 4 March, 2018

The Adventurer

The Adventurer


Having been outside
all through the long cold night
the cat returns. Let him come in.
Well might you ask, but he’ll tell you nowt.
He’s conquered the Persians perhaps,
or steered his ships
around the Cape; whereas you –
you have the plates, the beds, the bins …


© John Looker 2015


This is taken from section 2 of my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books 2015, from Amazon. This collection of poems looks at life through our experience of work, down the ages and round the globe. Section 2 celebrates the work in managing a home.

Posted by: John Looker | 3 February, 2018

Raiding the Deep

Raiding the Deep


Let’s spin the globe, spin it towards the sun –
slowly now – we’re looking for a likely place,
a place where the sea or the ocean touch the land
and men have always put to sea in boats,
have moored their boats or dragged them on the shore
with heavy limbs after the homeward run.

Here will do,
here where the wild Atlantic batters the coast
and the heaving tide has carried a fragile fleet
up on to Portugal’s sand. The boats are beached
and the sardine catch laid out in boxes for the buyers,
and men with wide-brimmed metal hats
will carry the fish on their heads, salt water dripping,
up to the trucks and out of view.

Soon the men will hear how much they’ve earned.
A decent trip? Not bad.
The catch? So so.
Not as much as in the glory days
but the weather held, the fish were there, the gear behaved
and (although this isn’t said) they all returned.

Spin the world,
and find the trawlers active in early morning
off Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New England.
Spin it and in the darkness look for vessels
ranged around the Pacific ring of fish,
tuned to their weather warnings, studying sonar,
watching the stars in shoals expiring slowly
and the depths putting on new colour,
as the day – a day of promise –
is unfurled.


© John Looker 2015

This is taken from section 1 of my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books 2015, from Amazon, now at only cost price). The book looks at life through our experience of work, down the ages and round the globe.

I am posting new poems less frequently these days because I’m working slowly on a second book and meanwhile trying to place some of the contents in poetry journals here and there. So far new poems have been accepted for advance publication by Magma  (UK), Artemis (USA), Communion (Australia), The Wagon Magazine (India) and Poetry Breakfast (online). Others have appeared in the Austin International Poetry Festival’s 25th commemorative anthology  and the Indira’s Net anthology (UK)Wish me luck with others please!

Posted by: John Looker | 7 January, 2018

Work (A Noun)

“And it’s spinning still. Changing shape. Becoming …”
What follows is a poem – not an extract from a dictionary.

Work (A Noun)


Old English: weorc, werc, wurc, wirc, worc, work: that which distinguishes the human from other primates

Let us start at the beginning. Come closer
and we’ll focus on a detail: two hands,
rough with bitten-down nails but agile, strong,
striking one stone against another; knapping.
Step back and see the whole man, in skins, squatting,
a ring of small children, thin dogs and beyond –
on the brow of this hill – earthworks and huts
and barefooted people carrying, sifting.
He stands. He weighs one flint in his hand, frowning,
then swinging his arm high he sends that stone
arching through the air to the trees below.
And it’s spinning still. Changing shape. Becoming
            a knife, a pot, the wheel, the printing press,
            railways, nuclear fission and the rule of law.

© John Looker 2015

It is three years this month since Benison Books published The Human Hive, my first book, and in celebration I thought I’d post here the opening poem.

The book looks at life through work, in all its forms, down the ages and round the world (it costs about $5 or £3 through Amazon or in Britain can be borrowed through local libraries from the national Poetry Library).

I saw a striking poem yesterday on the theme of life and work. Called ‘Road Work’ it was posted by Burl Whitman and you can find it at:

Posted by: John Looker | 26 November, 2017

The Day They Discovered Gravitational Waves

‘Collecting Reality’ is an interesting site to follow. They publish poems about science, usually by scientists but yesterday they posted this one of mine:

Collecting Reality

Time was there were Han philosophers
standing on a hilltop at night
naming the Mansions of Heaven;
later, Galileo Galilei
weeping with joy at the moons of Jupiter.

Now, in sightless tunnels
beams from lasers have shivered
at ancient astral events –
and men and women around the world
pore over computations

in awe at the mathematics:
the Universe in its infancy
had arched its back and roared
and they can feel
the exhalation of its breath.

© John Looker 2016

Originally published at


”  The two LIGO gravitational wave detectors in Hanford Washington and Livingston Louisiana have caught a second robust signal from two black holes in their final orbits and then their coalescence into a single black hole. This event, dubbed GW151226, was seen on December 26th at 03:38:53 (in Universal Coordinated Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time), near the end of LIGO’s first…

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Posted by: John Looker | 19 November, 2017

This Is Not a Hearing Aid


Magma have included this poem in their latest issue:


This Is Not a Hearing Aid

this is jewellery!
     Amaze your friends, make a statement:
         you have art, you have sculpture in each ear,
     you have taste and personality, you stand proudly
         on the new frontier of creative design.

Technology too:
     we know your insistence on quality products
         finely tuned to your own diagnosis of hearing.
     Miniaturised. Digitalised. Personalised. But:
         no more apologetic, no more ‘discreet’.

Wear your aid
     as you would your glasses, Fashionista:
         pop in the piece for your mood, for the occasion.
     Try our seductive Impressionists range. The Picasso.
         The Hepworth. The ever-popular Hokusai !


© John Looker 2017

Magma 69: The Deaf Issue was launched on Friday and has a wonderful variety of poems covering every aspect of hearing, hearing loss and deafness. There are some great poems in it. Some are very moving, some clever, others amusing. Some were composed originally in British Sign Language and the journal includes links to websites where they can be viewed in performance.

A related poem of mine, on sign language, was published recently in India in The Wagon Magazine and you can find it on this blog at:

The website for Magma is:


Posted by: John Looker | 20 October, 2017

Ever Onwards

This poem of mine has been published in the Australian online arts journal Communion:


Ever Onwards

African plains: and a gazelle foal running
       flat-out through grassland and river.
             Or swallows: recently fledged, soaring
      over sea and mountain, contending with
             tempest, hawk and marksman.

Townscape now and a man who will always get by:
      straight from school to the pit on a boy’s wage;
            on to the buildings when it closed; the mill;
      then motor mechanic helping the boss
             at night with those well-paid ‘specials’.

Now at the wheel of a truck he’s hungry, lost,
      peering through rain on his first assignment,
            staring into the dark and the dazzling
      oncoming lights. But as he likes to say
             there’s nothing that he can’t do; nothing.  

© John Looker 2017


The latest issue of Communion may be read at:

You will find it contains fiction, non-fiction, art, photography, music and (of course) poetry. There are nine other poets; all have been published here and there and several are prize winners or prize nominees. I’ve greatly enjoyed their poems – which are unpretentious but distinguished, and notable for their humanity.

‘Ever Onwards’ is one of a short group of new poems on the theme of looking at Life through people at work.

Posted by: John Looker | 1 October, 2017

A Young Gentleman Goes Up To University

A Young Gentleman Goes Up To University

with his father’s second-best horse
and a cap newly sewn by his mother’s own hand.
We may picture him kicking up dust in the lanes,
home disappearing behind.

After years constrained in the schoolroom
and occasional holy days rooted
to the fields and woods of childhood – today
in the morning sun the world seems righted.

Miles ahead lie lodgings in a Hall by a river
and many convivial haunts.
There’ll be Latin of course and theology; sparring
at table; cards, and riding to hounds.

Meanwhile it’s the road, through unfamiliar places:
market towns, manors – sights that he yearned
to see; obelisks on hills. Then at last
there it is: the City with all its bells! And beyond?
            Why, anything and everything.

© John Looker 2017

This is dedicated to Jacob, for whom I wrote it a year ago. I hope others will like it, especially at this season.

I also offer it for the UK’s National Poetry Day 2017 for which the theme this year is ‘Freedom’


Posted by: John Looker | 24 July, 2017

The Makers of Language

The Wagon Magazine in India has published this poem of mine:


The Makers of Language

Under his hand the hieroglyphs emerge: 
     bird and serpent, eye. Into the stone 
         he chisels miniature pictures of his thoughts. 
     Another time, another place, and the pale scholar
         sits, in silks, his mind moving with the brush. 

Now today and here: Friday night in the city 
     and a crowded bar. In fact, it’s packed. 
         Open the door and push yourself into the crush. 
   From end to end they’re sitting, standing, squeezing. 
         Leaning closer. Lips working. 

Seeing your friends at the far side of the crowd 
     and seeing that they’ve seen you, it’s hi! how are you, it’s 
         I had trouble parking but now that I’m here what’s yours? 
     your hands and arms inscribing signs in the air, 
         pictograms, ideograms, flowing from mind to mind. 


© John Looker 2017

As you see, it’s a celebration of sign language. In November, Magma, the British poetry journal, will be publishing a related poem of mine.

For The Wagon Magazine see

For Magma see


Posted by: John Looker | 13 July, 2017

Indra’s Net: all profits to The Book Bus charity

I love this project! With poems from all over the English speaking world it is surely going to give an insight into where poetry is going righ now. There are some big name contemporary poets in it I see, as well as contributions from up and coming poets and WordPress writers like me.

Bennison Books

Love reading poetry? Want to support a fantastic charity? All profits from this international anthology of poetry published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus. 

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Posted by: John Looker | 6 April, 2017

First Landfall In Nova Scotia

My best wishes go to the Austin International Poetry Festival which opens today, and especially to the thirty or so poets who feature in the 25th anniversary anthology When Time and Space Conspire. Wish I could be there too. However, I can post the following poem which is one of seven of mine to appear in their anthology:

First Landfall in Nova Scotia

This was no earthly paradise
they must have thought grimly,
pressing against the gunwale
in their unwashed clothes,
lifting the smaller children
to get a better view.
They saw they had sailed
under a chilling delusion,
bidding farewell to the land
they had known for generations.

Behind them lay the terrors
of the great Atlantic crossing:
the storms, the head-wind,
eleven weeks at sea –
each family boxed in
with its square of bare boards
allotted below decks –
food dwindling, the shared
obscenity of dysentery,
and the infant deaths.

Where was the promised soil
aching for the plough?
The pasture? No homes
waiting them, not even shelter.
Nothing but tangled forest
crowding the shore – that and
the eyes of the native people,
their woodsmoke, their footprints;
all that and the wail of a bird
on a lake and autumn fading.

At first they sat in the forest and wept.
But then: some trekked on inland
by unenticing trails;
others stayed – gathering shellfish,
shooting moose; determined.
It was enough. Clearing trees
they constructed makeshift cabins.
Snow soon mastered all,
until at last the sun
returned – and spring crept in.

© John Looker 2017

The Austin anthology When Time and Space Conspire was edited by Dr Charles A. Stone and Becky Liestman. There are stacks of fresh and interesting poems in it from about thirty contemporary writers and the book can be found on Amazon at:

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