Contributors’ notes in Iron Horse Literary Review include writers’ remarks about the genesis of their piece or comments to contextualize the work. “2009 Discovered Voices Award for Nonfiction” winner Lara Burton says she wanted to write an essay in the “classical style.” If by this she means well-researched, linking personal opinion or experiences to larger concerns and investigations, leaving the reader with information she most likely did not possess prior to reading the piece, and a traditional or conventional narrative shape, she has certainly accomplished her goal. More importantly, she has written an exemplary essay, beautifully composed, interesting, original, and enjoyable to read. In other words, a classic. “On deserts, loneliness, and handshakes” is about all three of these seemingly unrelated entities and their very seemly relationship. The prose is natural, but deliberate; the essay’s pace is perfectly orchestrated; and Burton arrives at a smart, satisfying conclusion.
Of his poem, “How Long Minutes Last,” Al Maginnes writes: “One of the things about language that fascinates me is the varied uses that a single word can be put to – in this case, the word minute.” Time and the words associated with it have long fascinated and frustrated writers and it may, indeed, be one of the hardest aspects of our existence to capture, describe, or explicate with any success. Maginnes is, happily, quite successful, linking images from disparate geographies and experiences into a cohesive and effective whole. He addresses the poem to a prison worker’s husband (which his notes tell us is his situation) and connects her minutes in the prison to a prisoner’s time, but also to images of a neighbor’s son shipped overseas to fight, and of “most wanted men” in other parts of the world:
Since the prison closed, each inmate,
and his burden of time transferred,
your minutes have grown too long
to manage, though an hour or half a day
might vanish in the bottom of a coffee cup.
No inmate you watched over saw his face
on a watch, his menace diminished
by the minute and hour hand pivoting
on the point of his nose. Most never got
even the minute given the neighbor’s son,
name and rank burned underneath
the picture of a face that would not age
beyond this minute of hot attention.
It deserves longer, but if you only have a few minutes, you may want to spend them with this slender, rewarding issue of Iron Horse Literary Review.