• One Minnesota Writer

Intentional Poetry Overload is Good For You

My poetry book stack for The Sealey Challenge 2021

The Sealey Challenge

During the month of August, I participated in The Sealey Challenge. I stumbled upon this challenge on Instagram last year when it was just about over, but followed @thesealeychallenge and the challenge's creator, poet Nicole Sealey, so I would be reminded when it started this year.

And just what is The Sealey Challenge? It's an invitation to dive into a book of poetry of any length (including chapbooks) every day during the month of August. Reading a book a day is a major commitment for most of us, but I decided to give it a try. The idea is to read a broad range of poetry, especially work from marginalized poets. Partcipants share their reading lists on social media. This builds a great community of poetry lovers while facilitating the expansion of everyone's want-to-read list.

Did I make it to 31 books? Nope. I was on track for the first half of the month, but the second half of August had so much going on that squeezing in a book a day felt a little like homework. I still read poetry, spreading one book over a few days. I decided that was okay as long as I just kept reading. I'm a big believer in wiggle room. It's hard to absorb that much poetry at once, but I found that daily immersion in poetry encouraged me to be more thoughtful, grounded, and attentive - kind of like meditation.

Early on, I focused on books by women poets, Mary Oliver and Naomi Shihab Nye being two of my favorites. I love how grounded they are in ordinary life, showing how it offers so many chances at grace. I found similarities in some other poets I read, too: Deborah Keenan, Margaret Hasse, Carolyn Martin. Later in the month, I picked up a book by the late David Budbill called Happy Life and was delighted that he worked in similar territory with a clear Zen influence. But I did not stick to that territory all month, tempting as that was. I read work that explored special needs kids, gender identity, incarceration, addiction, sex, and mortality. I read work both gritty and smooth. And I moved beyond poets who identify as women.

All in all, I would do The Sealey Challenge again. Right now, I'm making it a point to include a little more poetry in my daily reading than before. And that's a very good thing.

List of books I read for The Sealey Challenge 2021

  • Red Bird by Mary Oliver

  • Shelter by Margaret Hasse

  • You Can't Have It All by Annis Cassells

  • You & Yours by Naomi Shihab Nye

  • Happiness by Deborah Keenan

  • Self-Portrait With Cephalopod by Kathryn Smith

  • Something Like a Life by Sally Zakariya

  • In America by Diana Goetsch

  • Adjusting to the Lights by Tom C. Hunley

  • Turn Left Before Morning by April Salzano

  • Junkie Wife by Alexis Rhone Fancher

  • Dead Shark on the N Train by Susana H. Case

  • Pictures of the Gone World by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  • The Catalog of Small Contentments by Carolyn Martin

  • Mortal Trash by Kim Addonizio

  • Escape Envy by Ace Boggess

  • New York, 1960 by Barry Gifford

  • Lightning at Dinner by Jim Moore

  • Happy Life by David Budbill

  • The Death of a Migrant Worker by Gil Arzola

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