We are proud to present the inaugural issue of Steel Toe Review. This initial effort includes work from accomplished writers and artists as well as young newcomers, and their styles and subjects span a wide range from rural nostalgia to post-apocalyptic to sublimely silly. And yet all of the work featured in this issue shares a common bond both in quality and in the way it speaks to us about the human experience, particularly as it happens here in the South.
To be clear, however, we are not here to look exclusively at Southern culture, nor are we interested in looking at it from a standard angle. All of our contributors this month happen to live or have lived in the South. About half have some connection to Birmingham. None of them work within the strict conventions of “Southern” writing. Our intention is two-fold. The first is to provide a way to connect Birmingham writers to like-minded folks the world over, giving exposure to Birmingham as a place where serious art can happen. And it isn’t all about football, incest, corrupt politics, abortion doctor killers, and race baiting. The second intention is to openly wear the scars inflicted on us from where ever we happen to be from, be it Alabama, Texas, New York, or East Asia.
Finally, I should point out that associate editors Michael Tesney, Matt Layne, and I have all contributed pieces to this issue. However, we don’t intend STR to be a vanity project or a vehicle to promote our own work. With this first issue, we want to participate in setting the tone for a conversation that we hope the selections as a whole will begin to form. Michael is in charge of our theater section, and Matt is in charge of our poetry selections. They both discuss their own intentions with STR below.
Michael introduces this issue with a free-form poetic play of his own called Of Harbingers, Of Malcontents: An Opera. Matt has included his poem “In the Garden.” My short story “Catching Frogs” appears in the fiction section this month.
We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. And please start sending in work for our second issue, which will go online in January.
M. David Hornbuckle
Playwrights are not here to tell you cute little stories; we are not here to get rich or to “make it.” Throughout history, playwrights have been hated by their peers, arrested, sentenced to death, exiled, (at least the good ones). We are not here to pander to the desires of a crowd; we are here to expose their lies. Bertolt Brecht once got into an argument with a sociologist about how they were just now getting around to doing what playwrights had been doing for thousands of years.
It is that tradition we wish to explore. STR theater will not be about southern heritage. There is an underbelly in the south that hasn’t ever seen the light of day, so lets flip this beast over and feast on it’s entrails. Fuck the detractors. They don’t matter. Trust me, there is a world of people who actually care. Let the hacks do another production of West Side Story, we are bringing you a new world. Instead of hiding in the shade of a magnolia tree, let’s cut the damn thing down and roast a hypocritical bigot on its coals.
I am looking for solid concrete poetry that is as grounded as the soil I was born and raised on. I particularly enjoy poetry that is transformative. That is, the poem takes you into its heart but lets you off somewhere completely unexpected. Some examples of myfavorite poets include Mark Doty, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds and Ranier Marie Rilke.