A couple of weeks ago I happened upon a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson called “The Death of the Old Year.” It had the cadences of a ballad, and I wasn’t doing anything at the time (or I was avoiding doing something), so I picked up my guitar and plucked out a tune to go along with the words. I had so much fun, I decided to try it with a few more poems. My wife suggested I write nine more and compile them in an album called TENnyson. Much to her disappointment, I more or less ran out of inspiration after seven. For now, the album has been demoted to an EP. You can listen to demos of all the tracks here.
1. The Lady of Shalott
3. The Charge of the Light Brigade
4. The Splendor Falls
5. The Death of the Old Year
6. In Memoriam
7. Crossing the Bar
In looking for commonplace books available online for free, I came across a volume by H. Rider Haggard in which he chronicles his first year of farming the family plot of land. No great agricultural insights will be unearthed in his book, Haggard admits. He is really interested in the experience of learning to farm.
I would like to do the same thing on my blog. I rarely post updates about my writing because it feels like Monday morning quarterbacking. Why write about writing when writing itself needs to be done? I have a deathly fear of being one of those people who talk rather than do. But, thinking about it, I realize that, in my case, a little bit of self-reflection could be a kind of tonic that may actually strengthen my writing constitution.
All that to say, I have been chipping away at a middle-grade novel set in Philadelphia that I call “FB” for short. (I haven’t thought up a title I’m happy with.) I’ve finished a complete first draft of FB, which, though a horrendous, mutant mess, does have good bones. My main challenge over the next few months will be moving through that manuscript chapter by chapter, nipping and tucking. The task daunts me. But there are moments when I forget to be daunted and enjoy myself.
Ah, January. Looking back and forward. One of those points in time when a man believes he can change. The past has no bearing on him now! It does feel like turning a corner, doesn’t it? Last year’s ugly road is out of sight and all the future’s open. Of course, we all find, soon enough, that we’re walking the same path as last year.
Rather than make resolutions, I like to set innumerable goals for myself and accomplish half of them. But goals are poor blog fodder. I’d much rather read about what someone has done than what they’d like to do. And since this blog is all about what I like, I’ll refrain from listing any goals here.
But a new year is still a good moment to step to one side and have a good look at time. So here are a few things that have occupied my online attention lately.
Joshua Gibbs, high school teacher, posts regular articles about classical education and the pursuit of virtue on his blog at the Circe Institute site. I also have his book on my shelf, and you should, too. Josh’s bizarre, provocative status updates are one of the few things that make me sad to leave Facebook.
I have been tempted many times to bid Twitter sayonara, as well, but there are a couple people who still pass along interesting opinions and articles without dancing on the political fence every chance they get. Zack Stentz is one of those and Adam Roberts is another. The thing I appreciate about both of them is that they agree with me on almost nothing, ideologically, but are always thoughtful and willing to listen.
I’ve tried not to get sucked into the latest internet fad – newsletters – but despite my best efforts, I’m subscribed to a handful.
Micah Mattix has an almost-daily newsletter called Prufrock News, which I never have time to fully digest before the next one arrives in my inbox. He links to writing about literature and literary doings, along with the occasional political or cultural article. Almost every newsletter includes link to a photo and a poem and a brief summary of some new book that Micah is excited about.
Recomendo is a newsletter headed by Kevin Kelly, future-writer and co-founder of Wired. Every Sunday, he and two of his friends recommend two useful or interesting things apiece (for a total of six). I say things because their recommendations vary from books to websites to Youtube channels to scissors to keyboard shortcuts. Sometimes the reason for a recommendation makes me snicker, but every couple of weeks, they pass along something that makes me ask myself, “How did I not know about this?” (I have no idea why they spell the name of the newsletter with one M.)
I’ve been subscribed to Mark Athatakis‘s newsletter for a few months. It’s similar to Prufrock, with more commentary.
I signed up for Alan Jacobs‘s newsletter a few weeks ago. It’s mostly a recap of his latest blog posts, but since I’m addicted to all things Jacobs, I am subscribed. I’m having trouble finding the signup page online. When I do, you’ll be the first to know.
And, finally, just this morning, I signed up for a newsletter from a fella named James Wilson, who promises to send the very best freelance writing gigs to my inbox every Wednesday. We’ll see.
There are a few other people whose work I try to keep up with online as much as I can. I’ve let too many good blog posts slip by unnoticed. (It’s nothing personal, Michael Sacasas.) I’ll try to address that in the coming year. Oops! That sounds a lot like a goal or, worse, a resolution. Rewind, erase, etc. I may or may not address that in the coming year. What’s it to you?
Blessings on your 2019, friends and strangers.