Following on from last week’s year in review post, which was more political in nature, I thought I would take some time to reflect on last year from a personal perspective. Each year I go through the Year Compass as a ritual to close down the last year and set goals for the next, so this post is informed by that.
It’s also long and quite self indulgent so strap in.
Once again, it was a mixed year. I was ill for a lot of it, with a bout of covid in the summer 1, complications of gallstones and various miscellaneous colds.2 I spent a larger proportion of this year than I would like sat on the sofa doing nothing. When I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I was very busy, a factor compounded by illness. I didn’t do a great job of managing the stress and allowed it to get on top of me. The ongoing cost of living crisis didn’t help either.
That’s the negative stuff out of the way. This year was also one of the happiest of my life. I got married to my partner of eight years, and the wedding was such a joyful, brilliant day. We planned it together, did almost everything ourselves and it really came together. I felt incredibly lucky to be married to my amazing wife. We got to go on a honeymoon to Croatia, which was blissful.
We also travelled to Porto earlier in the year. After the two years of the pandemic, the world seemed to open up for us. Returning to live music was also a blessing, especially highlighted by an all day alternative festival at the Exchange which invigorated me and made me realise how much good music is out there.
In my day job, I was also lucky to get a promotion this year, which was very welcome. I feel like I’m finally making strides in my career and feel more confident with it.
I didn’t write or submit a lot. A lot of my creative output in 2022 was typing up old poems or finishing off old projects, like the game I put out earlier this year. I didn’t do much generation of new material, which is what I would like to get back to this year. But where I think I became much more confident is in performance. I was lucky enough to be asked to perform at a number of nights, including Fen Speak, Open Collab and Barry Hollow’s book launch. I feel comfortable performing my nonsense on a stage to a bemused crowd.
It’s hard to sum up all the changes in a year. It seems like too long but also not long enough. But all told it was pretty good, where the world opened up more and possibilities showed themselves to me.
That’s more than I’ve published about my life in a while so let’s go onto my favourite media of the year.
I read 53 books last year, with poetry and graphic novels bulking out that total. It’s fairly low for me, as the busy-ness meant I watched more television instead of reading. I have enjoyed logging my input on this blog though, and want to continue it going forward.3
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals had the biggest impact on my life. It came at exactly the right time, when I was on honeymoon and wanting to take the relaxation into my life going forward. It’s also affected my relationship to productivity and made me question my desire to do everything. I’ve become more intentional as a result of the book and want to keep that going forward.
My favourite fiction last year was imaginative and unlike anything I’d read before. This One Sky Day by Leone Ross weaves carribean folklore with a story about grief and loss. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a critique of H. P. Lovecraft and an exploration of gentrification. Both are delightful for different reasons.
Poetry wise, Basho translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa and American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes showed me what was possible within the constraints of poetic form. Instead of being restrictive, the haiku and sonnets expand in possibilities. I also loved The Bible II by Sam J. Grudging and Notes on the Sonnets by Luke Kennard, both of which are wildly inventive and push the possibilities of poetry forward.
I watched 26 films. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once was the clear standout, a film I’m still thinking about months later. It combines humour, serious family drama and existential doubt with an overall message of being kind to each other. It’s fantastic and I intend to watch it again.
I also really enjoyed Top Gun: Maverick, a film that was far better than it had any right to be, surpassing the original in my mind.
Other films I enjoyed were The Sparks Brothers, Prospect, Nightmare Alley and Glass Onion.
I played a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild last year. Its an incredible experience, a huge world full of detail that rewards exploration. Just under a year in and I’m still finding new parts of Hyrule.
After a couple of years of solidly listening to ambient and drone, I returned to songs with lyrics and catchy choruses. Part of this was seeing some excellent bands live, partly it is shaking off the necessary calm of the pandemic.
Three bands that stood out to me were Martha, Fortitude Valley and Fight Milk.4 All their songs have insanely catchy choruses and have been in heavy rotation throughout the year.
I also really got into Sparks thanks to the documentary. Their collaboration with Franz Ferdinand, FFS, is funny, catchy and unlike anything else. Each band brings their own sensibility to the songs and the blend of voices works really well.
When I wanted something more sedate, I turned to Broadcast, specifically their album Tender Buttons. This is beautiful, unique dream pop which somehow makes speaker interference sound calming. Sadly the singer is no longer with us, which is a shame as she had a stunning voice.
I’m not one for making big sweeping resolutions, preferring instead to have gradual change. I stumbled on the idea of theme years from C G P Grey recently and it describes what I’ve been doing for a while- setting a course of travel, not an ultimate goal.
That said, I’d like to carry on slowing down. I’m moving to the country soon so ethat will help, but I’d like to be more intentional and build mindful moments into my life. Try to do less, not more and rewild my attention. 5 Leaving Twitter in April last year was a good idea, but I still mind myself in a twitchy loop sometimes. I’d like to move away from that and into the real world.
I’m also going to hold off submitting to literary magazines and journals, at least for a little bit. I’ve lost my way with my writing and would like to write again for myself. I’ve spent the past couple of years trying to write ‘good’ poems, whatever that means, so I want to reset my own expectations for my practise and rediscover what I like in my writing. I might put some more poems on this website, but I want to hold off on submissions until I’ve recalibrate my own sense of worth rather than someone else’s approval. Art for the sake of art basically.
There’s a few other things but those are the main points. If you are still here, take twenty minutes out of your day to watch this:
I hope the next year is good for you and there is joy in abundance. I wish you peace and power.
Ps Kick the Tories out please and thank you.
Third time, no fun. ↩
I don’t know if not being around people during the pandemic has wiped out my immune system, but I feel much more susceptible. ↩
I will write up December 2022 shortly. ↩
Martha and Fortitude Valley share a couple of members but I think they are distinct enough to count separately. ↩