Four poems by Jeremy Hooker

JEREMY HOOKER is a poet, critic and editor. His work for BBC Radio 3 includes ‘A Map of David Jones’. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, and an emeritus professor of the University of South Wales. His Selected Poems was published by Shearsman in 2020. His most recent books are Word and Stone (Shearsman, 2019) and The Release (Shearsman, 2022)

Stonemason, Sculptor, Mariner

To Philip Chatfield

A man who came alive from a wreck

off the Cornish coast, in which

friends died; who clung

to a barnacled rock, which saved his life.

Rock, sea-washed,

jagged for a hand-hold.

           What stone gave him

he has given back

with imaginative touch

shaping images lovingly

with chisel and hammer –

the Virgin of Tintern Abbey,

the Madonna of Capel-y ffin –

mothering figures

that gather the silence about them,

and turn the master’s work to praise.

She brings flowers into my home

For Elin


She did not love me at first,

a stranger who appeared

in the middle of the night,

and woke up to a foreign land

with cycle paths and windmills,

flat pastures and fields of blue clay,

taken from the sea, which

always pressed at the land’s edge,

promising to return.

And the people were strange to me.

They look one in the face

with a directness that shows

no use for English irony,

as if to say: ‘And who are you?’


Who was I then?

A youngish man with a broken life

who was being loved back whole.

How should she care about that,

seeing an intruder in her home,

a stranger with whom she was required

to sit at table, disliking the way

he opened his mouth

and chewed his food, regarding me

with a critical eye that I was unaware of,

as I floated in the warmth of her mother’s love?


Now, though, she crosses the North Sea

to visit me in Wales, and buys me

daffodils – no longer a girl,

but a woman in middle years

with two boys and a grown-up son.

And she is fighting the addiction

that ruined her mother’s life,

and fighting it successfully

with willpower and therapy.

‘No’, we say, ‘life isn’t easy’,

as we look into the past, seeing

the woman we both loved so much,

who would have given her life for us,

if she hadn’t been taken by alcohol.

What sadness we have known, what grief,

and how we have shared it.

Yet still, she says, ‘There is only love’.

Cuckoos at Deri

For Debbie and Ian Tog Jenkins

No cuckoo,

again –

              a deadness

at the heart of sound

through May & June.

No cuckoo,

but news of cuckoos

in our friends’ garden,

two of them,

muscling eggs

out of a blackbird’s nest

to bring the summer in.

Singing The Needles


It was a melancholy song,

the sound from the Needles’ light

moaning through the bedroom window

on a morning of mist or fog.

It came in with the thought of wrecks,

HMS Assurance and other ships.

Three stacks, and one lost to a storm,

Lot’s Wife, in the eighteenth century –

she shouldn’t have looked back,

gesturing to Old Harry across the Bay.


There are things that stand out

with the naked bareness

of being, answerable

to no one and no thing.

But these may be loved,

and mark time in the sea

of a human life – storm-battered,

or jutting out of the calm sea,

that is silver or gold in the sun.


Vanishing in mist, or with a sharp,

bright edge, as though, ingrained

in rock, a whole life becomes visible,

the splintered stacks stand.

Unseen, too, they are a mystery

that makes itself known,

moaning through windows

and marking a day of mist or fog.