Hot Metal Bridge, the innovative and fiercely imaginative online literary magazine of the University of Pittsburgh, publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction and criticism that will cause such an extreme variety of reactions that by the time we are done reading, we will be so spent and drained that we will have to go home, rest, dive into a hot vat of peanut oil perhaps, before attempting to peruse any more of its wacky literary experiments.
In the short story “Lighthouse” by Dan Chaon, George Orson, the narrator and protagonist, returns to his family home in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska with his girlfriend and student, Lucy, who hears a boy crying:
Of course when you live in such a place and you think that you hear the disembodied sound of a boy crying in the back yard it might occur to you that the place might be haunted. She wasn’t exactly that type of person, not exactly the type for example to use the word haunted. She didn’t believe in it. Not exactly. She didn’t think ghost or hallucination or any specific word, nothing that would commit her to a certain course of thought.
In the equally wacky but less spooky poem “Elegy for a White-Footed Cat” by Alicia Casey, a family buries their cat after discovering the missing feline on the side of the road:
We found him
on the side of the highway.
I was seven months pregnant,
he was three days stiff. His tongue
gone from sandpaper pink to asphalt.
Here, the author utilizes humor to lighten the painful realities inherent in the emotions that come with loss.
In the nonfiction essay “Life as a Shorty Shouldn’t Be So Rough: Economic Influence on Gender Roles in Hip-Hop Music,” gender roles and economics are deconstructed in the world of Hip-Hop music. The separation between the images and depiction of men and women have diverged and degraded further:
Certainly, the ho is a sexual object, but the word is in reference to an occupation, not an identity. As the gangster rap became an industry, the gangster changed from a representation of the marginalized into a self-affirming hero of the lower class, the ghetto kid made millionaire. This hero required a monster, leading to the increased degradation and more vague classification of “ho,” shifting in meaning from prostitute to any sexually active female, at the expense of other more positive gender roles for women.
Hot Metal Bridge not merely a showcase for absurd yet emotionally gut wrenching poetry or creepy ghost stories set in under-populated states, but intellectual discussions about gender and music as well that will force you to poke yourself in the rear with a hot poker and actually learn something nuanced about the world.