Lynell Edwards. Photo-John Nation
Kings of the Rock and Roll Hot Shop (or, What Breaks)
By Lynell Edwards
Review by Joanna Lin Want
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Joanna Lin Want. All rights reserved.
In her poetry chapbook Kings of the Rock and Roll Hot Shop (or, What Breaks) Lynnell Edwards invites readers into the world of glassmaking where the exhilaration of creation and the defeat of destruction are but matters of an ordinary day. The book opens in the moments before creation when “All is hot possibility” and closes with a meditation on a finished piece of glass. In the brief final poem, “Heart of Glass,” Edwards asserts that, truly, glass is “never/ cold, never still,” as it always retains something of the fire that created it. The same could be said of poetry, at least the kind that reads true, like Edwards’ does. As readers, we encounter polished poems on the page—same as the cool, final product Edwards contemplates in “Heart of Glass”—yet we still want to feel a bit of the fire that created them, that little thrill of danger one feels when approaching something that could burn. And this is exactly what Edwards delivers, poetry that is not just about heat, but contains it.
The pleasures contained in this collection are both sensory and philosophical. In the poem “Good Enough” Edwards uses confectionary metaphors to bring the reader closer to what the process of glassblowing looks like: “Glass blown/ like gum or spun into cool confections, / sweet illusion of peppermint swirls.” In “Degree,” which begins, “You think you know hot,” we soon find that indeed we do not know what hot is, not the kind of heat that cooks glass, which we learn “surpasses 2000.” Perhaps even more captivating than the sensory description and metaphors Edwards uses to bring immediacy to glassmaking is the way in which she employs glassmaking itself as a vehicle for expressing insights won from devotion to the creative process. In the course of these poems, we witness glassmakers, almost godlike, breathe glass into creation, what Edwards deems a “little errand of expansion.” But we also learn that, as mere mortals, their craft requires a reckoning with the inevitability of imperfection. Some days one can “Imagine some future/ for the flawed, a rough break, uneven warp.” But on others, it is best just to “sweep it clean and call it a day.”
Pithy lines such as these rise up throughout the collection and one knows they are not just about glassmaking. In this way, Edwards answers the dual desires that exist when reading poetry: to know a world as yet unknown—in this case, the hot shop—but also to know the known world a little better and with changed perspective. The craft of glass-making takes center stage in these poems, but only because Edwards’ own poetic craft is so flawless as not to draw attention to itself. If you are like me, you will never look at a piece of glass quite the same after reading this tightly crafted, yet meditatively expansive arc of poems.
[box_light]Joanna Lin Want lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and daughter. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, The Aurorean, Indiana Review, JAC and others.[/box_light]