My Five Favorite Blogs of 2012

February is a month dedicated to love. The month we seek out a valentine of our very own, a like-soul with whom we can share joy, hope, and happiness. This celebration of love makes February a perfect month to do a post about things I love. Or, more specifically, the top five blogs that I love. It’s with that concept in mind that I give you My Five Favorite Blogs of 2012 post.

I spend many hours each month reading blogs on a variety of topics from all over the web. Oftentimes it amounts to over a hundred different blogs in a month. Some I read occasionally, but others become a ritual for me (like the morning coffee and daily newspaper). The five blogs below are just a few of the great blogs out there, but they are a part of my “ritual reading” due to their quality and my enjoyment. I like these writers and the stories or information they share.

These blogs are specifically notable because of their high-quality writing and their interesting and refreshing approach to topics. My favorites selection was based on the following criteria:

  • Vibrancy and consistency of voice;
  • Adherence to expectations of theme;
  • Lovely, crafted writing; and
  • Stimulating and/or diverse content.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit these blogs and sample the writing. And, if you’d like, please feel free to share some favorite blogs of your own in the comments section below!

1. 101 Books http://101books.net Author, Robert BruceI’ve been reading Robert’s blog for over a year and am always happy to see his newest post arrive in my Inbox. Simply put, he’s on a mission to read the books off a Time Magazine list (see his description below) and the readers of his blog are involved in an interactive journey with him. 101 Books is a great blog that explores literature in the here-and-now, with direct audience feedback, rolling conversations, and extra fun “tidbit” posts along the way. Robert introduces himself and his journey on his About page:

My name is Robert Bruce, and I’m a 35-year-old full-time writer and former English major who loves to read. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m going to read all 100 of Time Magazine‘s greatest English-speaking novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses). I don’t know how long it will take. After all, I’m married, I have a ten-month-old, and I like to train for marathons. But hopefully I’ll get through this list before my eyesight goes bad and the interwebs stop working.

Robert has a friendly, non-assuming guy-next-door quality to his writing that I love. It’s obvious that he’s a literate person, but he never hits his readers on the head with who he is; rather, the reader comes to know him through the warm conversational tone of his posts. He’s a guy you like and trust almost immediately. He’s just a normal guy writing about books he loves (or doesn’t) with a warm, friendly tone:

You might’ve guessed at some point that I’m a white guy. Maybe not. But, yeah, I’m a white guy.

I was born in 1976, when race relations in the U.S. were somewhat improving—at least in the sense that we were past the days of segregation and overt hostility. So when I read about some of the things African-Americans faced in the early part of the 20th century, it’s a real eye-opener for me.

That’s what I love about literature—it has a way of giving you a sense of time and place through the eyes of a character who is experiencing it all firsthand. Richard Wright’s Native Son does that brilliantly. I believe To Kill A Mockingbirdand Go Tell It On Mountain are other great examples of this type of novel.( from http://101books.net/2012/02/21/bigger-thomas-growing-up-in-a-white-world/).

His reviews are well-written – containing relevant, striking excerpts from the texts – and can be emotionally and culturally challenging. I was impressed by his posts about David Foster Wallace to the point of buying and reading Infinite Jest and The Pale King for myself.

Robert offers a little of everything to his readers at 101 Books, using the books and their authors as a backdrop for deeper cultural conversation. The blog serves as a platform for discussion of such topics as literature (as expected), cultural mores, racial relationships in the South, current political issues, et cetera. The blog, 101 Books, by Robert Bruce takes my #1 favorite blog slot for 2012.

 

2. NARRATIVE http://richardgilbert.me Author, Richard Gilbert. There was a sheep farmer from… and so starts the unique quality of NARRATIVE. Its author, Richard Gilbert, did own a sheep farm and is a talented and diverse individual as his Bio explains:

I’m a memoirist, essayist, and journalist whose writing has appeared in Orion, Fourth Genre, Chautauqua, Farming: People, Land, Community and other publications. Two of my memoir essays can be read on line, “Kathy” at Brevityand “My Father’s Tractor” at SNReview. Memoir (and) offers the opening of  “Remembering Paul,” about my helper on our sheep farm in Appalachian Ohio, the complete text of which is available on Scribd. Also on Scribd is my Pushcart-nominated Chautauqua essay “A Dry Year,” about rebuilding a pond during a summer of Biblical plagues—heat, drought, locusts, storm—with a legendary excavator who carried a tragic secret.

I operated a sheep farm for ten years, and for those really interested in animal husbandry, Sheep Canada published my essay on the history of selective livestock breeding, “From Bakewell to BLUP”; the Google reader version of part one is here.

I worked in newspapers and university press book publishing, each for more than a decade, was a Kiplinger fellow in journalism at Ohio State, and earned an MFA in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. I have taught writing at Ohio State, Indiana University, and Ohio University and now teach English and journalism at Otterbein University, on the banks of Alum Creek in Westerville, Ohio. I’m writing a memoir about farming and Appalachia.

NARRATIVE is a gorgeous site that looks like a glossy magazine, feels like a high-brow literary e-zine, and reads like a lyric poem. It’s one of the best websites I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, in both style and content, anywhere on the web. Richard has done a wonderful job of creating a site filled with literary riches.

Richard brings his talent and experience to the pages of NARRATIVE in a way that offers insight, technique, guidance, and inspiration to emerging writer’s and general readers. If you love the art and craft of writing – you’ll love NARRATIVE. If you need inspiration or motivation – look no further than the pages of NARRATIVE. Richard writes in a clear, yet lyrical style. His book reviews and style/technique articles are some of the best I’ve found. The site is a treasure-trove for writers and a sheer pleasure to read for any and all who visit.

3. Mother2rah http://mother2rah.wordpress.com by Siobhan Ironically, though I am a Poet, this is the only poetry blog to make the list. I personally believe it’s very difficult to do a poetry blog well. It takes a strong voice to carry poetry in a way that reaches many people while staying true to itself.

Siobhan is an exceptional poet. Her work is often erotic and tinged with sadness – we feel the depth and intimacy of the human heart beating behind the words. She has a strong voice and her poems remain true to her and themselves while avoiding any sense of triteness or repetition.

Siobhan describes herself and life on her About page in a concrete but mysterious fashion. This same duality marks much of her poetry and gives it a hypnotically transcendent feel:

My verse thrives on the tensions inherent in loneliness, longing, and fulfillment – either through the life of the mind or those moments of life in which our senses are filled with the external to the point where loneliness is forgotten.  I have written poetry for over twenty years. I tend to use verse to deliver my observations on being a woman in the world today.  My work is very personal yet holds a universal quality to which most can relate.  (As an aside – I graduated from the University of IL at Chicago in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with an emphasis in Business & Inter-personal communications.)
In the last few months of 2008 I watched my life unravel and felt helpless to stop it.  I did my best to remain calm and tell myself everything would be ok; it wasn’t.  So, as 2008 came to a close  I wasn’t entirely sure I’d see very far into 2009, however I made it to the end of 2009 and I am still breathing (albeit painfully at times.)

These are raw poems with a lyrical beauty. The writing is deeply moving in an emotional sensory-filled way. The poems breath the poet – we feel the wisp of her presence, but nothing heavy-handed or overly structured. The beauty of her voice shines brightly and the work on the blog revolves around intense intimacy and considerations of love. If you don’t like poetry, you should read Mother2rah – you may fall in love with poetry after all!

4. Charles J. Shields at http://www.charlesjshields.com I became acquainted with the work of Charles J. Shields through his book, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. I reviewed the book on this site (go here for that review), and was surprised and pleased when Mr. Shields dropped by and left a comment thanking me for the review.

I started following Mr. Shield’s blog at that time – about the process he was going through writing his new book, And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. The blog is beautifully written, like his books, and gives wonderful asides and stories not found elsewhere.

I highly recommend the two books listed above, and I’m sure you would enjoy a visit to his site. The site contains news stories, reviews, and stories about Kurt that didn’t make it into the book – stop by for a fun and enlightening visit!

5. Barking Up The Wrong Tree http://www.bakadesuyo.com/ Author, Eric Barker I debated about including Eric’s blog because he doesn’t write as much as he adapts news stories, research, current studies, etc. adding commentary. However, as this is a blog I read constantly and I do love his site…he made the cut!

If you have any interest in Science or cultural insights, then Barking Up The Wrong Tree is the blog for you. Eric gives us up-to-the-minute news and research results in concise, bite-size nuggets. It’s a fun, amazing, and sometimes, very surprising read. Stop by for a visit, and let me know what you think!

Well, that does it, my five favorite blogs for 2012. Please let me know what your thoughts are if you stop by to give them a try. And, by the way, what are some of your favorite blogs and why?

~~~~

Artwork: Notes Forgotten by Bob Orsillo. Please visit Bob at Http://www.orsillo.com to find out more about him and his artwork. Or, purchase his prints, notecards, and more at a his Fine Art America page  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/bob-orsillo.html

Sell Art Online

 

 

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Nellie

white dove snip

white dove snip (Photo credit: oddsock)

Grandmother —
Title, position, duties.
I never knew you
wanted to travel,
went overseas once.
A missionary trip
you longed to make, and
you did. I never knew
this small truth of courage
until your funeral.

How did you carry that
cold-heavy weight
of us on your shoulders
all those years?

Those dark-strong hours,
spent taking care of everyone
as we grew into non-children.
Solicitude, sympathy, tolerance.
Love always the deepest river,
lessons of giving-over everything
almost; and then

there was your God,
some stories you’d written,
a few trips taken —
the talented individual you were,
but all we ever knew
to hold onto
was a name, a presence,
the designation —
Grandma, Momma, Nellie – Love.

~February 2012 

 

Authenticity

Appalachian Mountains

Appalachian Mountains (Photo credit: BlueRidgeKitties)

I can see the bright-white hair

Of the child, bending, fingers reaching,

Trembling down into grass blades

To touch the little bug crawling along.

Mesmerized by moving life, slowly

Touching the tops of its shinny fly-like

Wings. Then, stand to running

across dark verdant grass yard,

Freshly mowed, to chase the butterflies

Across bush-tops around the corner.

I can hear the Appalachian accent laden

Voice of the young woman, screaming

The argument to higher intensity

As if loud will win it. The twirling turn

Of angry body, movement in flash-quick

Motion toward an open door. Then,

Footfall to running across the red dust dirt

And down through the wood path

To cry in solitude, quietly.

I can feel the angry quick vehemence

That becomes a cause becomes a mission

Becomes what will change her into wholeness

While she struggles to leave the dark rooms

of hard memories and tries to help others

never visit those places. The drive to live

after making such an effort to die, rather

than stay in the pain that was nothing

but is becoming, becoming a voice with

purpose. The first letters forming

words forming a poem, forming tomorrow.

I can remember time before it became

Abyss of career and responsibility, before

Manager became a carried title implying

In charge, a time before being diligently dutiful

in taking care of the things Others left

un-taken-care-of.  The twirling turn From art

to actuality, from theory to responsibility.

That has come to feel like a very long version of

A four-letter word said under-breath in madness.

I can still see

The bright-white hair of the child, bending,

Fingers reaching, trembling to grasp life.

~South Carolina, 2009

Cross-post from Lucid View for consideration.

Lucid View

…. / Together, the most powerful man in the world and one of the richest created a rare moment of purpose and clarity in American education policy.

But effecting a major increase in college attainment is a daunting task. The percentage of American working-age adults who have graduated from college has hovered around 40 percent for years, with roughly 30 percent holding four-year degrees and another 10 percent associate’s degrees. Obama and Gates were calling for a rise in the college attainment rate to nearly 60 percent in less than a generation, even though many public colleges and universities were already bursting at the seams, and cash-strapped state legislatures were handing down further punishing budget cuts.

Moreover, to succeed in college, students need to get a decent high school education. Many don’t. Dropout rates in urban high schools are catastrophic. And while 70 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million high…

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