What are some of your favorite chapbooks?
I like Charlotte Pence’s The Branches, the Axe, the Missing (Black Lawrence Press); Lucy by Jean Valentine, from Sarabande Book’s Quarternote series of chapbooks (the whole series is beautiful); Max by Joshua Vinzant (RopeWalk Press); Addie Bundren is Dead by Salita Bryant (Finishing Line Press).
What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?
All the poems in the chapbook are about the work and life of the glass blowers at Flame Run Hot Shop in Louisville, Kentucky where I spent about six weeks one summer observing, asking questions, and writing poems. This book is very different in several ways from my first three full-length collections. To begin, it’s not only tightly thematic, but it also focuses on a particular world that is outside my own experience and interior life. I also experimented a lot with form in this collection, particularly the shaped poem. I found that I wanted to make poems that had a kind of physical resonance with the work I was seeing in the hot shop.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The oldest poem is “Heart of Glass”; that was the poem that really unlocked the subject of glass blowing and the world of the hot shop for me. I think in that very short poem the theme of creation and glass as a living substance really presented itself. It was written in May of 2010; the rest were written all in a block of time in July and August of 2010 and then revised through that fall.
What were some of your chapbook’s earlier titles?
The title presented itself almost immediately as the collection took shape. Brook White and his team at Flame Run always had rock music playing above the roar of the fans and the furnaces while they worked. And that, as well as the physical choreography of the master artists is what the title reflects. The subtitle, (Or, What Breaks) is the title of a more emotionally tender poem in the collection, and the sometimes heartbreak of working with what Brook White calls “a cruel mistress,” glass.
Did you submit your chapbook to contests, open reading periods, or both?
I submitted to one or two contests, I think. Not long after I finished writing it, I found myself thick into the final revisions and the production process for my third full-length collection from Red Hen, Covet. And so I kind of sat on Kings for about two years, sometimes tweaking the poems and trying to figure out what I wanted to do, while in the meantime doing a lot of events associated with Covet. But in late 2012, I was fortunate enough to begin a conversation with the editor Katerina Stoykova-Klemer at Accents who saw the work as a good fit for her press and so she agreed to bring it out in spring, 2014.
To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
There were lots of back and forth emails about cover ideas and we jointly looked at lots of images before finding one, finally, that seemed to capture the spirit of the book as well as communicate some necessary information about the contents. Most people don’t know the term “hot shop,” and so they don’t immediately know that the book will be about glass blowing. We hope the cover image of the glowing glass creation lifted in front of the furnace, about to plunged into the heat, accomplishes that.
What have you done to promote and publicize your chapbook?
A lot of the usual things – social media, interviews like this online. The most interesting event I’ve got lined up at this early date is a reading at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. They’re really excited about my reading, which will be in conjunction with a glass blowing workshop, and I’m excited to take the work to a different audience. The release party for the book will be at Flame Run Hot Shop, and I’m hoping to do some events with other academic and independent glass blowing studios and programs.
If your chapbook wasn’t a chapbook — if it was in some other form — what would it be?
It would be a rock opera. Maybe a band with a big 90s grunge sound, like Pearl Jam. I can hear Eddie Vedder in this.
What are you working on now?
I have a couple of poem sequences that I’m planning to get back to this summer: one is in the memoir in verse category as it explores a portion of my childhood when I lived on the Kentucky River. The other is an historical cycle based on a particular, late 18th century pioneer family in central Kentucky who settled on the Salt River. So I think there’s a “river runs through it” kind of, uhm, current here that might come together in a new manuscript – but that’s still pretty far out there.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
Go for it! I was just exchanging emails with my friend Charlotte Pence (interviewed here about her chapbook), and we were talking about how much we love this form for its sense that you are so clearly writing toward something and within some boundaries. I think chapbook authors should also feel empowered to explore as many alternatives to publishing as possible, particularly when the work lends itself to a particular approach to book arts. I have another chapbook manuscript that is a serious of postcard-sized poems that are each one inspired by a postcard, either from Kentucky or Oregon, the two places I’ve lived in my life. I’m talking with artists about collaborating on possible design and illustration and would love to see some really unique approach to publication.
What question would you like to ask the next chapbook author featured at Speaking of Marvels?
Who do you most hope will read your chapbook? (either an individual or a particular group of people)?
Lynnell Edwards’ recent chapbook is Kings of the Rock and Roll Hot Shop (Or, What Breaks), from Accents Publishing, 2014. She is the author of three full-length collections, most recently Covet, (Red Hen Press, 2011). Her short fiction and book reviews have also been published in literary journals such as Connecticut Review, American Book Review, Pleiades, and New Madrid. She is Associate Professor of English at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.
You think you know hot:
locked car sealed in the parking lot;
pan on the stove, smoking;
night fever that wakes you blinking and wet.
But not like this:
garage and pipe warmer
stabilize at 1000 degrees;
glory holes large and small shape
at a minimum 1600;
the crucible cooking glass
This is the bottle of frozen water
you brought for relief sweating
and melted in minutes. This is
your thin shirt soaked
to the skin, your face flushed
far from the flame.
This is a controlled explosion. Approach
with glasses and masks, thick mitts,
respect. This is your creation
coffined in the annealer
cooling at 900 degrees.