Garlic Press, 2008   £5.00 -

Dean Parkin’s second collection begins with a list of waiting room stories (The story of the nut allergy …The story of the kipper/ and the grandmother … The story of the woman on the bus)  that could almost be a contents page, since most of the poems in Just Our Luck are essentially these kind of stories—first-hand accounts related with a relish for detail, perhaps overheard or passed round on those occasions when people gather together to twiddle their fingers. The two interjections in that first poem seem like the poet playfully chiding himself for the inevitable limitations of such an approach—You just make things up! … Get to the bloody point!” But in Parkin’s hands, the anecdote poem is surprisingly flexible, whether shaped into elegy (‘My Father’s Hair’), absurdist satire (‘The Staple Question’) or light surrealism (‘The Swan Machine’). ‘Sweet Offer’ is successful as the poetic equivalent of a comedy sketch, and ‘The Pigeon Exploded’ is a grisly (and original) approach to the relationship poem.

Parkin loses his footing though in ‘Fingertopping’ (a sharp enough take on our culture’s infatuation with ever-more-extreme fads, bolstered—not tempered—by middle England outrage) which is let down by its being somewhat behind the times. The coolest band/promoting their world tour—foreheads branded, tongues forked,” is how the poem ends, but body mods in this vein have been picking up popularity for a long time. Self-amputation for kicks? Bizarre covered the craze over a year ago, fingers and toes.

Aside from minor stumbles like this, however, Parkin is markedly consistent in making his waiting room stories work in different ways. ‘The Sniper Takes Aim’, in which a seemingly mundane action unexpectedly saves a life, makes a case for the whole collection as an exploration of how minor events are inextricably linked to the major factors in our lives.

Jon Stone