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

Bronwen Manger