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:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Time-Space-Conspire-Written/dp/1539650995/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491487109&sr=1-1&keywords=when+time+and+space+conspire

Posted by: John Looker | 12 March, 2017

Herald of Spring

(to a small granddaughter)

 

No, not the cuckoo although, yes,
we fancied we heard one just now, over the field.
Snowdrops maybe? Plucky little plants, they unfold
their immaculate gowns with a ‘hey look at us!’

Everywhere we see the colours of winter:
flint church, moss on the gravestones, the yews,
and the drift of spent leaves – all so subdued
until these starbursts make us stop in wonder.

And look at you, little lass,
as you go skipping among the white petals
in your blue coat with the pink buttons,

now turning to beam at us
with your big dazzling smile – you, at the portals
of Spring, all birdsong and blossom.

 

© John Looker 2017

 

 

 

Posted by: John Looker | 13 February, 2017

In Jane Austen’s House

We visitors are whispering, withdrawing from each other. We feel too tall, too loud, navigating all this china, imploring children to be careful.

via In Jane Austen’s House: by John Looker — Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog

 

This was her writing table, this her chair
(‘Please Do Not Sit’); two bijou items placed
here by the window where the light fell square
on her page from the horse-drawn world she faced.
In a cramped corner the public (that’s me
and you) peer through glass at her neat handwriting;
or we squeeze into the bedroom which she
and her sister shared – until she was dying.
We visitors are whispering, withdrawing
from each other. We feel too tall, too loud,
navigating all this china, imploring
children to be careful. We’re quite a crowd.
       We open a door (she would have opened it too,
       her skirts brushing the frame) and we pass through.

 

 
© John Looker 2017

This appears as today’s poem in the International Poetry Month organised by Bonnie McClellan every February.  I’m grateful to her for selecting it and I warmly recommend following the daily poems there throughout this month. They have a unifying thread but are the varied work of different writers from many countries.

Posted by: John Looker | 5 February, 2017

Mercury

 

This conference – by videophones –
would stop Marco Polo in his tracks,
take the wind out of Columbus’ sails,
and has messed up meal times
in five separate time zones.

Dinner in Shanghai
but breakfast on Wall Street.
Luncheon in London’s City
and in Frankfurt am Main. 
Tea in Mumbai.

Listen! … so what do you think?
There it is again:
the delicate sound of a glass
on a glass – a clink,
a disembodied clink!

© John Looker 2017

via Mercury: by John Looker — Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog

 

‘Mercury’ appears today in the International Poetry Month which runs annually during February and I am most grateful to Bonnie McClellan for selecting this poem of mine.

I would recommend following Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog – throughout February you can find a daily poem; the theme is consistent but of course the poets have widely differing approaches.

(My collection The Human Hive looks at life through work, down the ages and round the globe.)

Posted by: John Looker | 9 December, 2016

Out On The Lawn

 

Closing her eyes at night she can easily see 
    the wide open vistas of home, easily feel
         the cool upland airs, or recall the intimacy
     with mother and sisters – and the old ones too –
         talking over local tea, cinnamon spiced.

Here in a distant land the ways of living
     are unsettling. Her little flat. Her strict hours
          in uniform among their sick and elderly,
     helping them eat, wash, all those intimate things.
         And always the bell, insistent, shrieking.

One of her charges has begged to be out in the sun
     and she, although it’s her lunch, wheels him to sit
          by the last few roses. She gathers chestnuts
     to put in his hands, asks about children’s games,
         and leans closer – with golden wings – to listen.

 

© John Looker 2016

From time to time I write another poem on the theme of The Human Hive, that’s to say looking at life through work. This is a recent example.

The Human Hive, published via Amazon by Bennison Books, now costs £2.80 or $5.40

Posted by: John Looker | 14 October, 2016

Fourteen Intimations of Mortality

As a curiosity, here is a ‘poem’ that was found recently while turning the pages of a poetry magazine:

 

Fourteen Intimations Of Mortality

 

Once I was in a room with two men
seeming dead way ahead of time.
Death arrives with her bone hammer,
the captive bolt, the gun’s held breath.

I’m dying, I’m dying –
stroke my cheek, my dad is dead,
dear Mother come softly across your white veil.
One by one we started dis-

– it isn’t obvious how all this works – life
// do you believe you have consciousness
Now it’s dawn, and the names are leaving, one by one,
and the horse is restless in the stable.

     I will roar the Truth:
     the story about the night.

 

© John Looker 2016

 

Each line of this sonnet was a line by a different poet published in The Poetry Review, quarterly journal of the Poetry Society here in Britain, summer 2016 edition, volume 106.2 – gathered strictly in the order in which the poets occurred. The issue was not dedicated to the subject of death, unless the editors (or I?) were subconsciously looking for the shadow of the scythe.

Posted by: John Looker | 19 August, 2016

The Day They Discovered Gravitational Waves

 

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

See: https://www.ligo.caltech.edu

”  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 observing period (“O1”), and was immediately nicknamed ‘the Boxing Day event’.  “

Posted by: John Looker | 26 June, 2016

Bottom Remembers Love

 

From Wikipedia. Titania adoring the Ass-headed Bottom. Oil on canvas by Henry Fuseli, c. 1790

 

All them years ago – but still each day
she’s flitting in and out of my dreams … her eyes
like pools at night full of the moon and stars,
her smile pure sunlight waking in the east.
She smelt of summer meadows, and when she spoke
her voice, soft and fierce, flew like an owl
hunting. I tell you I froze, while the hairs on my head
stood up, and they (you know what I mean?) weren’t all.
You’re right of course, they laughed and called me an ass.
Me and her, we come from different lives,
like trees that were stood on opposite banks of a river
leaning, weaving our branches, blossom, leaves.
       What could we be to each other? She were the rain
       falling on wheat … and me warm air lifting the lark.

 

© John Looker 2011

This is the last in a series of five poems which are my offering in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. This one was first published in 2011, posted at the time (as now) to mark the midsummer solstice.

Here in the UK there are currently several theatres staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For those who may be unfamiliar with the play, Bottom was one of the comic characters who, under enchantment, was given an ass’s head; Titania, Queen of the Fairies and herself under a spell, fell in love with him until released from the enchantment.

Posted by: John Looker | 15 June, 2016

Julius Caesar In The 21st Century

Julius Caesar In The 21st Century

(thoughts prompted by Shakespeare’s play)

 

In the Forum,
we stand among the crowd and lend our ears
to whosoever’s rhetoric is balm. 

Those men in togas! All so ambitious:
one’s greedy to bestride the little Earth
like a Colossus;

another has a lean and hungry look –
he thinks too much
and this we do not like. 

How hot it is! But some Mark Antony,
who always had our hearts, borrows our minds
and moulds them easily. 

We run headlong through the streets
shouting,
the dust rising beneath our feet.

 

© John Looker 2016

This is the fourth of five personal reflections in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

 

Posted by: John Looker | 5 June, 2016

From Shakespeare’s Notebook

From Shakespeare’s Notebook:
first thoughts towards his sonnet 73

 

Coming out of the theatre I find you here,
as promised,
in a doublet I have not seen before

       … I am evening now; autumn.
I am embers.
All this you perceive with your clear bright eyes

(your love must be more strong
than I had dared to hope, seeing me so
pallid, in this out-moded cape)

You raise your smile to me,
greeting me with a shared jest,
and I feel at once how fast my pulse is racing

(could it be your love is like the crowd
that gives its heart to the players with greater joy
knowing the play is fleeting?)

We walk on together towards the bridge,
you talking at length about your day and I lost
in the music of your voice

(do you sense, with me by your side,
how the scenes of your own half-written play
must pass?)

       … you are morning still; springtime. You
are a brightly lit fire from which I take such warmth
as I had thought would never shine on me.

 

© John Looker 2016

This is the third of five poems that are a personal commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Most of Shakespeare’s sonnets are now presumed to be addressed to his Young Man, and number 73 reads as follows:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

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