Odilon Redon, "Flower of the Swamp, a Head Human and Sad" (1885)

Odilon Redon, “Flower of the Swamp, a Head Human and Sad” (1885)

Dear Reader,

The carnival of crap that is the year 2016 is almost over, and in a few weeks, the United States is going to endure an historic new presidency. We’re not going to rhapsodize political, at least, not in this venue; there are myriad other publications written by policy wonks that can analyze, with the patina of your preferred longitude of the left-right divide, every utterance made by a politician or non-politician and each bullet sub-bullet sub-sub-bullet point in each pork bill floated through Congress. We would rather talk about truth. It’s tough to define, the word “truth,” and even more so in an election year, especially in an election so contested (regardless of what side you’re on). That’s the funny thing about 2016: irrespective of your ideology, at some point you were probably pissed off this year. And if you weren’t, then you weren’t paying attention.

What is truth? Does a winner of a battle or a re-count of the votes get us any closer to truth? If we ban the so-called “fake news,” are we only left with the truth? Does live fact-checking during a debate promulgate true facts? One of the most terrifying images in modern literature is that of the “memory holes” in Orwell’s 1984. Here, the government willfully erases people and events from history, and the truth — as far as the public is concerned — is altered irrevocably. Which begs the question: do facts matter, if nobody knows them?

But there are truths that don’t require fact-checkers, or re-counts, or statistics, and those are the truths we seek in every issue of Front Porch Journal: the truth of human experience and emotion. We have three editors working in their separate genres (poetry, fiction, and nonfiction), yet they independently picked works that discuss, in some way, the nature of truth and how to believe in it. In “When I Grow Up, I Want To Be A Ghost,” Casey Whitworth tells the story of a narrator who may or may not have seen a ghost, an entity only she can see. In “Life Is An Application,” Christina Quintana fills out a fake application form with nothing but truth. In “Alphabet of Tiny,” Janet Yoder presents a series of facts about homes and housing: 26 of them, in fact; one for each letter of the alphabet.

The high price of the housing market got us thinking about the recent fire at the artists’ space, The Ghost Ship, in Oakland on December 2nd, 2016. Over thirty-five people were killed in this fire. One wants to imagine this kind of tragedy is a thing of the past, at least in the United States. But we must consider how we as a country and as a culture, value artists. Why were so many artists unable to afford a reasonably safe, reasonably secure place to live with reasonable proximity to a cultural center? What is the product artists make, and why do we apparently value it so little? Artists reveal truth. A different kind of truth, of course, than, say, the EBITDA of Exxon Mobil for fiscal year 2015, or the percentage decrease in operating costs of a local municipality, but a valuable truth nonetheless. It’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on empathy, or for revealing a history some would prefer to forget. Justin Sanders, whose new story collection for all the other ghosts was reviewed in this issue, and which he, pertinently, describes as “true fiction,” sums this up in his interview: “I’m less and less certain of my own knowledge and ‘rightness’ each day, so I think rather than offer commentary based in what I know or what I think I know, I try to offer my versions of, ‘but also is it possible,’ and ‘why,’ and ‘what if.’” Why, indeed.

Front Porch Journal is run by MFA students at Texas State University. We have all taken a few years out of our lives to pursue truth, however we define it, through art and literature. It matters to us. We could be studying practical subjects, which our families would probably much prefer, like marketing or dentistry, but we — collectively and individually — for some reason, feel that exploring truth through artmaking is far more important. To that end, we are proud to launch the Winter 2016 issue, #34, into cyberspace, featuring a few of our contemporaries who, apparently, and thankfully, feel the same.

All Best,

Phillip Mandel & Michaela Hansen