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Inexplicable Occasions, John KillickA5 vertical pamphlet with white background. There is a full colour square illustration in the middle which is a hand drawn cartoon of the author, wearing a tie and reading from a small square book. I think the sky overhead is flashing lightning and it is raining. About an inch and a half from the top the title is in fairly large caps INEXPLICABLE OCCASIONS. The author's name (both pieces of text are centred) is about the same distance up from the bottom, but in much smaller caps.

Fisherrow Press, 2016   £5.00

Occasional poems for every occasion 

I have always liked the term ‘occasional verse’, a term intended for poems written for specific occasions: a wedding, a funeral, a coronation. Laureates do a lot of occasional stuff.

But it has also been a term that suggests a degree of ‘slightness’. Poems of a lesser ilk, arising from occasion rather than inspiration.

John Killick plays with that idea on his back jacket, but inside mingles all sorts of verse. Some is light and frothy. Some is elegantly lyrical. Some is surreal. Some is sad. Many poems have dedications and arise from a particular, often affectionate, relationship.

And although the publication is shaped like an A5 pamphlet, it really has book-length contents. There are no fewer than 40 pages, many of them featuring more than one text. So that’s at least 42 poems in all, counting five haikus as one unit.

I specially like the items that are clearly true: they include little anecdotes, totally believable situations, and sometimes haunting coincidences. In ‘Reading Love Poetry on the Train’, the poet resists reading some love poems aloud, only to see, in the sky, two vapour trails ‘forming a huge kiss on the blue’.

In ‘The Double’, which Thomas Hardy would surely have relished, the poet’s friend accosts his lookalike in the street. He tells her ‘Madam, I am not who you think I am.’ And indeed – he couldn’t have been there. He was at his desk many miles away.

But what was he writing?

This line: ‘I am not who I think I am at all.’ Spooky.

But real. Like ‘Her Silences’, which describes a friend who has gone very quiet. The poet kisses the top of her head – it is clearly a close relationship – and waits.  

Then, suddenly, she speaks, and a new
limerick is launched upon the air,
verse and person perfectly composed.

I was absolutely sure this was true: a real person, caught in snapshot. And if I feel I have sometimes been that person myself (though not for this observer), that may also be another factor in my delight.

Helena Nelson