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Mick Pacholli
29th December 2012, 07:48 PM
A review of ‘Black Guitar’ by Robert Lloyd (Littlefox Press)

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Black Guitar is the first book by acclaimed Australian composer, musician and
songwriter Robert Lloyd, presented in an elegant publication by Littlefox Press. The
book encompasses three sections – poems, prose and song lyrics – which together
form a varied yet cohesive collection. I found Black Guitar to be an uplifting read; at
once tranquil and reverent, yet alive with many shadows and questions.

The first thing that charmed me when reading Black Guitar was Lloyd’s use of
refreshingly uncomplicated language. This is a style that grants the reader – regardless
of their degree of experience or familiarity with poetry – instant admittance into the
images, metaphors and richness of each piece. By using accessible language, Lloyd
expertly demonstrates a confidence in the content of his writing; that it does not
need to be decoded or deciphered to be appreciated. Further, his style also shows
respect for the intelligence and interpretive skills of the reader – rather than puzzling
through a hedge maze of tricky wordplay and unfamiliar terms, the audience is free to
appreciate, comprehend, consider and question the deeper content of each individual
piece and the book as a whole.

Another refreshing quality of Black Guitar is the wise and buoyant tone that
permeates the book. There is a delicate balance involved when a writer attempts to
convey wisdom and positivity without coming across as condescending or bragging.
Lloyd skilfully – and seemingly, effortlessly – accomplishes this in two ways
throughout Black Guitar. First, his unpretentious writing style is inclusive and natural
– he writes conversationally, and the reader is treated as an equal; a confidant rather
than an apprentice. Second, Lloyd has interspersed pieces that more conspicuously
exemplify wisdom, such as ‘What is being neglected?’ and ‘Shabbat silence’ with
pieces that address more playful themes (‘The poetry of Orgasm’, ‘Renegade Bats’),
or demonstrate that one does not always feel wise or patient amongst the struggles
that forge such characteristics (‘Last night at Vipassana retreat’, ‘Psalm’).

A recurring theme throughout Black Guitar is perception of – and gratitude for – the
small ways in which art and beauty manifest themselves in everyday life; the scents
of the roses that one must stop to smell. ‘The first time I saw snow’ and ‘Daffodil
dream’ are two such poems. Lloyd – himself a highly recognised composer and
songwriter – brings us a deep reverence for the creative accomplishments of others
(‘Persian carpet man’), and a willingness to be awed; best demonstrated by the concluding
stanza of the first poem in the book ‘My Black Guitar’:
“There is great art in your body of timbers
I tune you lovingly
and praise the noble calling of luthiers.”

While those who prefer abject despair amidst their literary diet will be disappointed,
Black Guitar is not without shadow and the depth that it imbues. As well as
beauty and positivity, Lloyd’s poems and songs also deploy poignant imagery and
compelling questions to address the struggle with grief (‘Psalm’), the father-son
relationship (‘Memento’, ‘To my son’, ‘Bob Dylan poem’), and loss of contact with
friends (‘Between train stations’). Throughout the poems and song lyrics sections,
Lloyd uses questions liberally; a technique which involves the reader more deeply
with each piece, and adds to the conversational writing style of the book. Often, too,
one is left to draw their own conclusions, and ponder the significance of objects,
places and characters within the words (‘Almond tree’, ‘You wear the face of God so
well’).

To conclude, Robert Lloyd’s Black Guitar is unique – a warm, surprising and
expertly-constructed book; a pleasure to read and an invitation to consider life – with
its beauty, trauma and mystery – more deeply. Highly recommended.

Follow Robert Lloyd on Facebook
- https://www.facebook.com/robertlloydmusic

by Bronwen Manger

Robert Lloyd
2nd January 2013, 05:15 PM
BLACK GUITAR is available for $25;00 from Collected Works Bookshop Swanston Street Melbourne, Australia. 0396548873