July 22, 2021
My favorite literary event of 2020 was #TheSealeyChallenge in August, when I (and so many others) read a book of poetry every day. Yes, 31 books in a month! Even when a big storm knocked out our power, I was making coffee on the grill and reading the day's poetry book on the patio. So. Much. Fun. I learned so many things. Water takes a really long time to boil on the grill, and the work of Ashley M. Jones, Tommy Pico, Junious Ward, Nancy Willard, Jenny Xie, Alberto Ríos, Ocean Vuong, et al., is well worth seeking out.
I kept track of the books on Twitter; others used Instagram, Facebook, blogs, etc.
The new edition of the challenge launches on Sunday, August 1, 2021. The poet Nicole Sealey (Ordinary Beast, Ecco Press, 2017) started this endeavor. From the website:
"in 2017, balancing her administrative work with the promotion of her first book left poet nicole sealey with little time to read for pleasure. nicole decided to challenge herself to a personal goal: read a book of poems each day for the month of August. nicole announced her intention on social media and the challenge quickly took off, inspiring its own hashtag: #TheSealeyChallenge!"
You can borrow books of poetry at the library and through inter-library loans (start requesting now!) and buy them at your favorite bookstore. Some good apps for reading e-books include Hoopla, Freading, and Libby. All free, in various systems, with a library card! Don't forget about audiobooks; I plan to to listen to Eve L. Ewing's 1919.
What to read? Follow the website's advice: "while the books you choose are up to you, The Sealey Challenge encourages reading books by marginalized poets. for ideas, browse blog posts from past participants."
The roster of interviewees (and hosts) at the Poetry Foundation's VS podcast and the one at the New Yorker's poetry podcast are also good resources. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the online journal Jacket2 and its podcast, PoemTalk, as well. And Stephanie Burt's books The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2016) and Don't Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems (Basic Books, 2019) contain multitudes.
For books of poetry for children, the LA Public Library's article "21st Century Kids: Embrace Diversity Through Poetry" provides a good reference, and so do NCTE, 100 Scope Notes, the Cooperative Children's Book Center, Lambda Literary (scroll down for the poetry books), and Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog, among others.
For more poems and poetry talk, check the Poetry Friday roundup at author Kathryn Apel's blog on July 23rd.
Photos by ST (2020). Top, NYC mural by Rone, part of a series curated by the organization Education Is Not a Crime. Below, Share TMC graffiti, Westchester, New York.