Since we tasked the writers who submitted to Hot Metal Bridge this fall to raise the stakes of their stories, to dwell on themes of Conflict and Confluence, we felt we should be bound to the same obligations. A literary journal is a place where many voices come together to form their own dialogue. The stories here represent a crossroads of several distinct and powerful perspectives that, when read together, create their own convergences and conflicts.
Katey Schultz takes us to a town in Arkansas where the landscape of America becomes an unfamiliar layover for a soldier who is “Home on Leave.” In “Very Hot Summer” William Cass gives us a reverent depiction of the tobacco fields of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, while sincerely questioning whether or not America’s farm country is still God’s country. Then there is Jason Clearfield’s “Tungsten, Tennessee,” which drops us on the back roads of Appalachia with hilarious irreverence. At a time when it feels like there are only two voices in a red-versus-blue-state America these writers seek to reveal the polyphonic nature of American identity.
We don’t want the conversation to end, however, at the edges of the current American landscape. Stephen Roiphe’s “Amboyna” immerses us in a colonial history of torture and global power machinations that leaves us profoundly unsettled. Deborah Flanagan’s luminous prose poems mine History with a capital “H”, revealing to us the personal histories that make them. “Men Set Out To Be Heroes” excavates the traces of power, chronicling its genealogy, while “Injuries of Nerves and Their Consequences” reconstructs an intimate portrait of struggle against confinement with artifacts from the life of writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
All of the stories in this issue share in their refusal to accept the quick and easy conventions of politics, society and history. For there to be an actual confluence of our conflicts it seems necessary to look both outward and inward, beyond and between boundaries—to reexamine what is actually coming together and making our world.
–Jacob Spears, April Flynn