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Perfect Black by Crystal Wilkinson

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The title poem, “Black & Fat & Perfect” viewed as a narrative poem is the story of two lovers fixing breakfast together. But it is so much more than that. The juxtaposition of those three words is backed up – especially -  by two lines in the middle of the poem -  “& the dust floats into the light above them/a magical veil to cover their faces/a balm to heal all wounds.” Like the other poems here, an essay could be written about its nuances. That word “dust,” conjurs up both dirt and heritage, and  it both hides and heals them. The connections between all those words are pregnant with meaning. I am proud that I was one of the first editors to publish poems by Crystal Wilkinson, including a couple in this book, as well as one of the first to make her a featured author years before her first novel, The Birds of Opulence won the Ernest J. Gaines Award or she was hired to teach by the University of Kentucky. "If we are Black it should be Perfect. Crystal has shared a wonderful book. Curl up with a cup of soul and enjoy it."―Nikki Giovanni. “You know just how married she is to everything country especially her people and you learn quickly that being country ain't a compliment nor an insult. It's a warning and a promise that has everything to do with folk ways. With the earth. And with truth―no matter how much it hurts. With the same authentic voices that anchor her fiction and twice the personal risks, these poems will hand wash you in the creek and leave you on the line to dry. Utilizing evocative cinematic images that walk right off the page so easily you can taste the seasonings, smell the honeysuckle, feel the blades of grass beneath your bare feet and hear Crystal's allegiance to mountains, creeks and people the color of tobacco from the very first line."―Frank X Walker. "There is an ambience in Crystal Wilkinson's Perfect Black that captures the nostalgic sentiment of place with all its complexities. Wilkinson's inner ear is prominent and pronounced, and within this poetry collection lies the embodiment of women who know the 'creek' and the 'looking-glass' and we, the reader, are innocuous within the words. Imagistically, we are shown what it means to grow up country, girl and Black behind the backdrop of Appalachia. I cannot think of a more authentic voice from the 'holla' than what Wilkinson gives us in Perfect Black."―Randall Horton.

Lexington, Kentucky: The University of Kentucky Press, 2021. 96 pages, illustrated by Ronald W. Davis and Foreword by Nikky Finney. Trade paperback.