Black Velvet Elvis
The King grins down from the gas station wall, benignant presence over the cash register blessing villagers and passing travellers through cracked, grime-mottled, grease-streaked glass.
With this, his title poem, J. D. Black sets the tone, often ironic but never cynical, in this remarkable collection. In a broad range of topics, styles, and forms, all handled with impressive skill, Black explores facets of life ranging from the natural world, to human nature. Using forms, both lyrical and narrative, and approaches both idealistic and brutally realistic, he reflects life in all its manifestations. What is particularly gratifying, because it is so rare in poetry collections, is the clarity, the accessibility of Black's poems. The subtlety, the brilliance, lies in the astonishing insights and the conviction of truth to reality which inform every poem. The reader's reaction to each is, Yes, right, that's exactly the way it is.' This conformance with reality is abetted by his very effective use of rhyme and metre, unfortunately rare commodities in modern verse.
In the title poem, he blends wry social comment with biography, and myth, all informed by a melancholy sense of failure and loss. A series of Vignettes of Len', snapshots of a squalid thug contrast dramatically with a lovely testament to the onset of Spring, and with a haunting elegy to a disappearing god of the forest, the wolf. The dark humour of a hapless factory worker losing an arm to the machine is followed by a description of stew, so vivid that one can taste it. And a Venetian glass-blower anticipating cuckoldry. And a Good Friday poem of Judas. This collection is truly dazzling in its range and uniform excellence. It signals the arrival on the literary scene of a formidable talent.