Black Velvet Elvis by J. D. BlackBlack Velvet Elvis by J. D. Black

Black Velvet Elvis

byJ. D. Black

Paperback | October 1, 2006

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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.

A native Montrealer, J. D. Black came late to poetry -- so late his juvenalia might be seen as the product of his second childhood. Someone has said that a poet's early works are about other poetry and the later works about the early works. Given his first influences -- Johnny Jellybean, Miss Ellen of Romper Room, Sarah Binks and Adria...
Title:Black Velvet ElvisFormat:PaperbackDimensions:96 pages, 8.75 × 5.56 × 0.33 inPublished:October 1, 2006Publisher:Porcupine's QuillLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0889842779

ISBN - 13:9780889842779

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From the Author

Black Velvet Elvis was written between 2000 and 2005, and ranges from free verse to the strictly formal, touching various points in between. Aside from a brief excursion to the opera stage, and a few bows to folk tradition, the majority of the pieces are based on the author's personal experiences and memories. A variety of tone is attempted, with some pieces frankly light and humourous, others preoccupied with mortality, particularly in the last section, which deals to a large extent with family and friends. - J D Black

Read from the Book

Black Velvet Elvis, or Gas-Bar de la Nuit 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. But other Elvises hang around the room, growing older clockwise, from the fresh, dimpled rebel by the door, to the worn and pudgy Elvis over the Coke machine. That Elvis is the weight of the world incorporate -- weight he lifted from everyman's shoulder on endless nights and took to himself, so great that it rucks the nap of the black velvet that bears him. And that Elvis cries, tears brimming from sorrowing eyes, as he grasps the cold metal of the microphone, knowing what must come to pass. Locals coming in to gossip or pay, or just to ask for the restroom key, talk in hushed tones: he was never really dead; he was resuscitated miraculously and lives, hiding and waiting until the world is ready for him to stage a comeback. Rumours of sightings percolate like the muddy gas station coffee (everyone scans the tabloids in the big food store down the highway, past the ornate immensity of the church). They trudge out over scattered gravel, twitch-grass and dandelions to pee, dreaming of a final long muscle-freeing step off a Greyhound bus to the Land of Grace, barefoot pilgrims floating on bluegrass to the shrine of the man who knew the thrill of their love, who was more popular than the Beatles, whom they saw crying in the chapel, who sang the soundtrack to their lives. At night the gas station draws small swarms of boys in tight jeans to its bright, wide windows. They drop change in the Coke machine and take the bottles across rue Principale to hang cool against the square, flaking wooden pillars of the darkened general store. Behind them loom dim presences of leather-palmed work gloves, sun-faded overalls, fly-specked skillets. Elvis watches them study the rolled cuffs of their jeans, as girls in threes and fours flounce by, giggling. The glowing ends of deep-drawn cigarettes play bass to a syncopated falsetto doo-wop of fireflies. Across the street, a clapped-out two-tone Chevy with primer-covered body panels guns its motor. Behind it, sequins on Elvis's jacket glitter.

Table of Contents

Part I

Last Page
Cori Spezzati
Murano Purgatory
Canis Lupus
Rural Landscape
Triolet: Summing Up
Rondeau: Perseverance
Lines Written upon the Computer
Vignettes of Len I
Vignettes of Len II
Interlude: Ira and Yvette
Vignettes of Len III
Vignettes of Len IV
Gang-Car Stew
A Song on Good Friday
Incident on the Plant Floor
An Informed Opinion
Antiheroic Couplets
Mrs Murphy Remembers
For Richard Outram
March Rhododendrons
Reply to Robert Frost
Black Velvet Elvis


Don Jose to Carmen
Schlemil to Giulietta
Andrei to Natasha
Der Vogelfanger

Part II

From a Child's Idyll
Rain in Autumn
Roundel: Awkward ...
A Trip Downstairs
Personal Geotechtonics
Lost Hope
Rude Awakening
A Proper Cup O'
Canis Lupus Familiaris
Last Train Out
Missing Definition
Epitaph for a Matriarch
Vinca Minor Vincit
Period Piece
Folk Ballad: A Farewell at Sunset
Double Dactyls
Villanelle: Heat
How this Dream of Running in the Dark Ends
Cheshire Cat

Editorial Reviews

The flashy cover is a delight to the eye, as a well-known iconic hand graces it. Elvis, the older one, not the young one, is an equivalent symbol of Black and his later development into prose. We may be seeing the old Elvis on the cover, but the hand grasps the microphone firmly; like the older Elvis, Black may be late to arrive, but he seems confident in all that he has learned along the way and what he has brought to the table.' -- Kindah Mardam Bey "lucid forge"