My thinking wasn’t foggy – it was just wrong! At first glance, I didn’t expect to like Fogged Clarity, the first print publication from online journal producer Benjamin Evans (despite my pleasure at seeing a publication expand to print from electronic production, instead of the other way around). I didn’t care for the title or the burnt orange cover and its image of a cosmonaut. Even the name of one of my favorite writers, Terese Svoboda, on the cover couldn’t sway me. But, did I have water on the brain? I loved the magazine, beginning with Howie Good’s poem, “Gifts for the End of the Decade.” An excerpt:
I give you green troops
to plug a gap
mutinies and desertions
have torn in the line.
I give you burning towers
as the only discernible
source of light.
Most of the stories, poems, and essays (at least, I think there is an essay, which can be difficult to determine without genre classifications in the TOC) in Fogged Clarity exhibit the qualities similar to those in Good’s poem, work that leaves me changed thanks to the careful, deliberate, original manipulation of language and images I recognize and can appreciate, but which are nonetheless original and new. A powerful economy (how many wars are there in those green troops?). Restraint (how many deaths in the burning towers?). Familiarity (those burning towers again) that is somehow fresh (as the only sources of light). Multiple meanings (“explaining / night with my hands” echoes of the erotic or sexual; of the act of creativity/writing; of despair or of confusion when raised, palms up, as part of a shrug). The work in Fogged Clarity doesn’t stomp its foot and shout look at me, I’m so clever and inventive and fresh, it just is clever and fresh – and extremely moving.
I liked a prose poem by Bruce Smith (“Devotion: Al Green”); Michael Tyrell’s poem, “The Garden,” and, of course, Svoboda’s poem (“Which Poem Comes Last?”), stories by Joe Meno (“Eels”), and Marcos Soriano (“Donald Mathison’s Heart”), and what I think is an essay by John Hemmingway (“Me and Henry Miller”), grandson of Ernest Hemingway. Artwork is handsomely reproduced, though I would have liked to have some clarity about the original medium (oils, watercolors, lithographs, etc.). I appreciated in particular the interplay of realistic and dreamier elements in paintings by Biff Moshe.
The issue ends, aptly, with Svoboda’s poem, “Which Poem Comes Last?” which concludes: “Inured, casual about / the immunity of time to space, / we repeat: the last shall be the first.” Let me make it perfectly clear: this is the first, but it won’t be the last issue of Fogged Clarity I’ll want to read.