Sports and literature might seem odd bedfellows at first glance, but only at first glance. Sure, players, coaches, and referees make their living by doing—running, jumping, throwing, catching, blowing whistles, and keeping play fair—and even strategizing involves an active, diagram-drawing, game-film-watching, fingernail-drumming freneticism that literature, with its calm turning of pages, might not seem to match. Except, that is, when one considers the unlimited amount, duration, and variety of activities that can take place on a well-written page, and in the vivid imagination of a captivated reader. After all, most of us have probably taken our places in the Mudville bleachers as Casey stepped into the batter’s box and “lightly doffed his hat.” If not, perhaps you’ve absorbed the intricacies of horse racing from Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven, or seen West Texas football through the strange and baleful eye of Don DeLillo’s End Zone. From Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, to Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, to Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, recent literature holds many examples of the way sports lend themselves to exploration, scrutiny, celebration, and interpretation on the page.
That’s why we at Iron Horse Literary Review are so excited to start off 2016 by opening the gates on 18.4: The Sports Issue. Here in West Texas, where we live and work, it’s impossible to stay neutral on the subject of football. From the legacy of H. G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights and the TV series it sparked, to college contests at Texas Tech’s Jones AT&T Stadium, to the NFL and “America’s Team,” the culture we live and breathe is saturated with football and the voices of its champions and critics. Some of us at the magazine love the sport, while others wouldn’t go to a game if you paid for our ticket and bought us a beer, but all of us love the drama it sends reverberating out into the local Lubbock community as well as its impact on the nation at large. The game involves so many people—and so many controversies—that we see as ripe for story and art.
We hope The Sports Issue speaks to games we know and games we’ve never heard off. We hope it offers some traditional will-they-win suspense alongside innovative takes or take-downs on the history and long-range significance of sports in general. But most of all, we hope the poems, essays, and stories that end up in The Sports Issue do what all good literature does—illuminate some aspect of the human experience previously unnoticed or unexamined. We want to be delighted, shocked, informed, moved to laughter and outrage, and yes, to be thrilled in the way that only a tense game at the end of a hard-fought season can deliver: stamping our feet, clapping our hands, screaming our throats raw. We want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, united with the crowd, living moment-to-moment but simultaneously made a part of history as we witness greatness and loss that only takes seconds to see but will live forever in memory.
Poetry or prose relating to any sport is very welcome. Whether it deals with playing, coaching, cheering, cheating, reffing, winning, losing, or any other aspect of games of skill, strength, or intellect, send 3-5 poems or up to 5,500 words of prose via Submittable. Generally, we pay $50 per poem, $100 per long prose piece, and $40 for flash prose. You have until February 28th to send us your best, so cue the training montage and we’ll prepare to be wowed!