Iron Horse Literary Review publishes short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

General Guidelines:

• All manuscripts must be submitted online, via Submittable. We do not accept submissions via regular mail or email.

• Our submission gates open and close on a rolling basis between mid-August and mid-April each year. Please observe our submission periods; we reject manuscripts that do not fit the theme or genre of that submission period. See the table on our website for dates and topics. If the gate is not open, do not attempt to submit by purchasing a back issue or any other item. Wait till the gate is open.

• We do not publish previously published materials.

• Regular submissions: Prose writers should send one manuscript (5,500 words or less); poets should send 3-5 poems.

• Longer manuscripts must be entered in our annual Trifecta Competition (Prose: one essay or story, 25-40 pages; poetry: a single poem, 10-20 pages long). We reject long manuscripts that come in during any other submission period.

• We review only three manuscripts by any one author during any one academic year; subsequent manuscripts by the same author will be automatically rejected.

• Iron Horse accepts simultaneous submissions but please inform us immediately if a submission is taken elsewhere. Just send us a note through Submishmash or via email:

• Upon publication, we provide an honorarium of $50 per poem or flash piece and $100 per story or essay. Trifecta winners (one each in poetry, nonfiction, and fiction) receive $250. The Single-Author Chapbook winner receives $1,000. Prizes for film fest winners include $300 (Editor's Prize) and $200 (Audience Award).

• Please include a cover letter with your name, email address, and the title(s) of work submitted. Enter your cover letter into the appropriate field inside Submittable. Do not include your cover letter inside your manuscript. We will immediately REJECT manuscripts including cover letters.

We recommend that you familiarize yourself with IHLR before you submit your work. Find more about the current issue as well as subscription information on our website.

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For further information on any topic, send us an email.

Iron Horse Literary Review charges a $3 submission fee for each regular manuscript submitted to our office (our various competitions have entry fees). Like every literary journal in the country, we're compelled to demonstrate that we are both a fruitful project, with many benefits, as well as self-sufficient rather than a drain on limited funds. Together, with your help, we can keep the literary arts alive, and we hope you will be happy to spend $3 for your submission rather than giving that money to an office supply store and the post office.

Thank you for your continued support of Iron Horse! Without writers, we wouldn't even exist--

Well, here we are.

I admit: when we first conceived of the IHLR State of the Union issue, I believed Hillary would win the 2016 presidential election, and so I envisioned this issue as a text of hope: Look how far America has come. Look where she will go now. Isn’t she beautiful? Instead, in the days after the election, I found myself struggling to grasp the magnitude of living under rabid conservative rule again, especially when led by a man whom I considered mentally unstable, narcissistic, vulgar, even obscene. Where, in the darkest days of our history, did this group of “leaders” plan on returning us so America could be great again for white heterosexual males?

Here’s the reality check November delivered to me: for centuries, America has been a country unsafe for men and women of color, the LGBTQ community, and women in general. I simply never acknowledged how deep my country’s hatred was for its female, black, Latinx, indigenous, Asian, Muslim, and/or queer inhabitants. I’d been living my life with the help of some privilege, which I hadn’t “seen” until November 9th, when everything became all too clear, all too late.

Once my thoughts turned toward the darker truths of America, and once I got a foothold on functioning despite my new understanding, I remembered this issue. I remembered we hadn’t yet set the contents. When I began looking at the stacks of submissions that had made it out of the slush pile and into the next round of selections, I suddenly “saw” truths in the words that were not initially there for me. These manuscripts were not about hope at all, but rather despair. Every poem, story, and essay I had initially read as optimistic, even reassuring, now hinted at trouble in a sinister kind of way.

I had thought the parents in Elizabeth Horneber’s essay, “American Pastime, 2016,” were just an older couple learning to reconnect, patching and fortifying their nest emptied of its children. Just two Americans late in life, forging new identities, based, perhaps, on America’s wild frontier myth. Now, though, the parents were our country’s two political parties, unwilling to bury the hatchet, one party licking its bloody wounds while the other raises the ax and prepares to throw again—all while the awakening children watch. In Annie Lighthart’s poem, “Public Singing,” I had pictured the voices of Americans raised in unison, singing a mending anthem, but now what I heard was the fear of a dark season, a voice resounding in the air, a voice no one wants to claim and no one recognizes. The burglar’s voice in Mark Brazaitis’s story, “The Thief,” was the vulnerable one society had pondered but conveniently dismissed or maybe stashed out of sight . . . until now, when its pitch was driving half the country to threaten, humiliate, slander, and deport it. Brazaitis’s story no longer read like a fable, a moral operating under the guise of speculative fiction, as it did a piece of nonfiction, the way metaphor sometimes represents an ugly truth better than factual details can. In fact, lots of these manuscripts have loosened metaphor from its figurative meaning; now, every possibility feels not even like probability, but rather like enduring reality.
We end with Michael Chin’s “Prophecy,” a story whose title and plot ask readers to ponder what would happen if a bully became the class president in junior high. Again, we’re just pretending here, right? We’re just imagining what that would be like, correct? But when I see the instructions children are supposed to follow in the event of a school shooter—run, hide, fight—I realize that we’ve let the bully into the classroom. We held the door open for him. We handed him the gun and the bullets. The last two words—what if?—no longer signify a game of make-believe. Instead what if this happens? reads a lot more like what’s next now that it has?

Along those lines, Ruth Goring’s concluding poem, “America, if,” doesn’t seem like conjecture either, but rather an eerie sci-fi look backward: When the world went dark in November 2016, what if we had fought harder? what if we had been ready? what if we hadn’t let them build all the walls?

It feels like such a small gesture afterward, but in the back matter of this issue, we offer an inspiring interview with Jaswinder Bolina, founder of Write the Power, and, also, in our regular column Bits & Pieces, some tips for becoming activists. I’m hoping, as Bolina hopes during his conversation with us, that if writers and readers use the power of words—if we read, write, speak, protest, rally, submit our work, run for office, call our senators, and thereby resist, resist, resist—then maybe, in the future, the outpouring of apocalyptic poems, stories, and essays we’re seeing now from our submitters might only represent the historical record of long-ago dark days rather than continuing topics of concern. Remember when America nearly lost it all? we will ask. Remember all those words we wrote back then? Thank god, we’ll hopefully say, we survived.

Leslie Jill Patterson

Fiction by Mark Brazaitis and Michael Chin; Poetry by M. Soledad Caballero, Gail DiMaggio, Ruth Goring, Annie Lighthart, Jane Miller, and David Mucklow; and Nonfiction by Elizabeth Horneber, Joe Jimenez, and Ito Romo.

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In 2009, at AWP in Chicago, a group named MotionPoems mounted a television near the elevator bank and aired some of their cutting-edge collaborations—poets and video artists working together to animate terrific poems. While everyone was rushing around to various sessions, I stood in front of that TV, mesmorized. Then when TriQuarterly switched from print production to an electronic format, I found its collection of video literature, curated at the time by John Bresland and containing primarily video essays but also several cinepoems.

Every time I chanced upon some new video literature, I was enthralled . . . the way a good documentary or feature film can make me forget it’s daylight outside the theater. Added to that magic was the voiceover, a narrator speaking directly to me, with all the poetry and finesse and artistry that I love about great literary writers.

If you asked me in the beginning to explain what video literature is, I would have turned directly to then IHLR Managing Editor, Landon Houle, who had explained it to a local talk-radio DJ: it’s similar to Paul Harvey’s “Like a Farmer” commercial, the ad that aired during Super Bowl XLVII and was so wildly popular that it spawned a slew of “artsy” commercials in the next two Super Bowls. Now, I can also tell you that video literature involves the juxtaposition of words with surprising images—there’s a conversation happening between language and picture in these pieces. And I also know that you can produce a piece of video literature on your cell phone or using the software that comes standard on every laptop or desktop computer these days. Try it!

Since 2013, IHLR has held an annual filmfest, and for the first time last year, it sold out. Here, in our inaugural DVD issue, we’ve collected our favorite pieces from those three festivals. We include video essays from Jacob Cutler, Joe Dornich, Paul Hunton, Joseph Johnston, Laura Marostica, Kristen Radtke, and Kirk Wisland; cinepoems from Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Heid E. Erdrich, and Rebecca Gayle Howell; and one cine-story, Landon Houle’s “One of Us.” Finally, we’ve also included an experimental piece by John Bresland, a “found” video essay featuring actual clips from Peyton Place and haiku from David Trinidad’s book Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera. Bresland continues to be the leading figure in the video literature movement, offering workshops on the production of such films and starting the original collection at TriQuarterly. Now, Bresland has passed the torch, and Kristen Radtke manages the video submissions to TriQuarterly.

Watching the IHLR collection will show you why we’re so enamored with this new form. And every year, between January 1 and March 30, when we’re accepting video literature entries for our annual filmfest, you’ll know what we’re looking for. Every three years, we’ll include our favorites from the filmfests in a DVD issue. We hope to see your submissions, and we hope you enjoy the show!

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Thank you for supporting IHLR, our contributors, and the literary arts. Without subscribers, we wouldn't exist!
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You are choosing to join the Benefactors list! Thank you so much for your generous support! Without our sponsors, Iron Horse would not be the journal it is today. We are so appreciative!


There are four categories of Iron Horse sponsors:

Friends (at the $50 level)

Patrons (at the $100 level)

Benefactors (at the $300 level)

You are choosing to join the Patrons list! Thank you so much for your generous support! Without our sponsors, Iron Horse would not be the journal it is today. We are so appreciative!

There are four categories of Iron Horse sponsors:

Friends (at the $50 level)

Patrons (at the $100 level)

Benefactors (at the $300 level)

You are choosing to join the Friends list! Thank you so much for your generous support! Without our sponsors, Iron Horse would not be the journal it is today. We are so appreciative!