I opened my copy of Collected Longer Poems by W.H. Auden last night, as bed-time reading, and found myself talking to my younger self.
I have no memory of reading these poems. Instead, I have a memory of not reading them, because they were long and I was not that interested in poetry. My memory tells me I got interested in poetry in graduate school, in a seminar on Yeats where we read all of his lyric poems. My memory lies.
The title page of Collected Longer Poems is covered in my handwriting: notes about the poetry, specific notes and general notes about Auden's poetry. I wrote a long paper on Auden, part of a special course I took in my undergraduate work. I vaguely remember the course, don't remember at all what I wrote about. But there I was, 40 years younger and full of ideas. And I realized it wasn't the ideas that had left me: it was the source material. I used to write about stuff worth knowing, if only notes to myself. Now, what do I know?
This morning on Salon (my morning habit), I read this article: one that promised Chomsky and Orwell, and only offered warmed-over Orwell. Hitchens wrote more insightfully about Orwell, and Hitchens was a putz with an Oxonian accent (even in print!) which only made him sound good. I could construct a better analysis of U.S. ideals v. reality from the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, as indeed Andrew Bacevich has done. But Bacevich doesn't get discussed on the internet, and Niebuhr is a dead white man at Salon. They are far more interested in the nuanced thinking of Amy Schumer.
And where on the internet does one find a discussion that isn't about confirming one's prejudices and proving one's superiority to all outsiders (because every discussion forms its own clique. That would be true here if I had more readers. As it is, my readers are a clique, but a gentle one with no real boundaries, because no one here defends any boundaries, except perhaps your gentle host. He can be a real jerk.)?
So, a New Year's resolution: back to the books, and away with the screen.
Call it a mental health resolution. I'll call it a spiritual one.