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What is Metallic Grit?

In July, we released a call for the Special Folio: Metallic Grit to be published within our 39.1 Summer 2017 issue. As fall submissions open SEPTEMBER 1st, the IR staff shares the stories, poems, and essays we see reflecting and embodying Metallic Grit.

Fiction Editor Maggie Su

What happens when two dissonant materials merge? For Indiana Review’s special Metallic Grit folio, I’m looking for short stories that aren’t afraid to challenge the traditional boundaries of form and language. Fictions that dispense with the standard metaphoric symbols, cause-and-effect character motivations, and Joycean epiphanies. Instead, I want writers to consider the hybrid spaces, the dirty beauty that surrounds us. What messy genius could happen when discordant notes are allowed to enter our imaginary worlds?

One of the many joys of reading Helen Oyeyemi’s collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours lies in her playful revolt against convention. Her stories unlock a universe filled with secret gardens, ghosts, and puppets. Instead of using fiction to tie up loose ends, Oyeyemi invites readers down the rabbit hole.

For this special call-out, I’m asking submitters to startle me with language, embrace mystery, and risk something vital.

Poetry Editor Emily Corwin

I see Diane Seuss’s “Jump Rope Song” and Grace Shuyi Liew’s “A Factual Tale of Sisters” existing in a similar space of roughness and glitter. Both poems work, for me, as ars poeticas, showing the poem as a made thing, as music, as mythology—an object with sharp, pretty edges. As Seuss and Liew investigate concerns with childhood, gender, race, creation, they break open these glinting surfaces to reveal a wild, rugged interior.

Web Editor Anna Cabe

As for the things evoking metallic grit, I love Melissa R. Sipin’s “Scorched-Earth” for its burning, bright, emotional fury. The anger and pain in the story is compressed as hard as a diamond and burns all the brighter for it.

Cheryl Strayed’s essay “Heroin(e)” about her mother’s death and her own heroin addiction scorches. This is an essay that is unflinchingly and unrelentingly brutal and yet manages to dazzle with raw beauty.

Editor-in-Chief Su Cho

“Athazagoraphobia” appears in Jamaal May’s gritty poetry collection Hum. This impossible balance of beautiful imagery quickly shattered with the kind of raw emotion everyone is a little nervous to admit always leaves me with a strange tug in my gut, trying to make sense of these strongly juxtaposed sentiments. But “Athazagoraphobia” proves that sometimes, that taut cord flexing in your gut is the exact place to be in order to excavate what truly lies at the center of writing.

Nonfiction Editor Anthony Correale

The mind narrating “Jack-July” by Victor Lodato is flexing and warping under an intense heat. The narrative scatters across the page like sunlight glancing from the chrome of stalled traffic before striking  just behind the eye. On first glance, there is a bleak fatalism to the story, patterns recur in ever looser spirals, distending and violently shedding meaning until they seem to occur without cause or precedent. And yet there is a thread that runs counter to the narrator’s downward trajectory: these characters are attenuated, yes, but also ductile.

Associate Editor Tessa Yang

Tiphanie Yanique’s “The Bridge Stories” is a piece that represents Metallic Grit in both content and form. The story presents a series of four separate narratives: “The Parable of the Miniature Bridge Maker as told by an Island that is between things,” “The Story of the Burka and the Habit as told by a Catholic Lady in a big hat,” “The Fisherman’s Tale as told by someone’s grandfather in a corner rum shop,” and “The Lament of the Queen as told by a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl in patent leather shoes.” The narratives become inextricably bound as fate drives the characters toward a giant mythic bridge connecting the Caribbean islands. To me, the bridge invokes Metallic Grit as a powerful symbol of process, creation, and finally collapse, while the piece’s unique structure allows Yanique to investigate the similarly protean qualities of storytelling itself.


We are open for General Submissions & for the Special Folio: Metallic Grit starting September 1st to October 31st! Click here for complete guidelines. We look forward to reading your work!