The Sealy Challenge
In August, poetry lovers challenge themselves to read 31 chapbooks in 31 days. Think you could do it?
Rejection hurts, y’all. I received a few “thanks but no thanks” e-mails in my inbox after submitting supposedly subpar writing to a few publications. It’s never fun to get a resounding no on some personal shit, but I decided to be productive and started browsing the internet on ways to improve my writing. Like I mentioned before, I’m a lover of words. Always have been. It’s why I’m writing this newsletter. My love spans multiple mediums, too. Now I never said I was any good at it, but I do appreciate it deeply. One of my fave genres is poetry (surprise surprise). I have a dedicated Instagram page for my bursts of micropoetry under my penname @samaapoetry. I’ve been writing it since I was 7 or 8 (maybe one day I’ll gather the courage to share some of my worst offences). It dawned on me after the latest form rejection I received that I never really bothered to study the craft. No matter how good (or bad) you think you are at something, you can’t get better without studying it in some way, right? Always the late bloomer, Samah. Realizing shit a decade after she should.
I was always proud of the fact that I wrote poems in short bursts and in a stream-of-consciousness way. I just let out what’s inside me at the time and that makes it difficult for me to edit it afterward. While there’s a great sense of relief for me to let those feelings and images outs, I have to admit that this doesn’t automatically translate to whoever reads it. If I want to improve my craft, I have to be able to write in a way that lets the audience feel what I felt when I wrote it. This is what makes a whatever poet into a great one. I’m trying to go from meh to great.
Enter the Sealy Challenge.
The renowned poet and educator Nicole Sealey started the Challenge in 2017 as a way to encourage herself to read more poetry and fresh voices. She shared her idea on Twitter and the rest is history. Now, thousands of people participate by sharing their selections and recommendations. As soon as I saw it, I was intrigued. It’s exactly what I need to discover new voices, read classic ones and get creative.
Poet Laura Buccieri writes:
Every time I do this challenge, I feel anchored by the books I read. Like no matter what kind of day I had at least I can go somewhere inside these collections and just be.
I walked to the local library (amazing to be able to go after over a year of lockdown) and picked out a few poetry books without overthinking. My choices include Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Jewel, Amber Dawn, Tupac Shakur and a collection featuring Indigenous poets.
31 seems like a lot but they’re mostly chapbooks so pretty short to read. At the same time, I am not going to rush to get through a book in a day if I can’t. Hopefully, this experience allows me to gain an understanding of poetry writing, pick up on writing techniques, discover new voices, challenge myself, feel inspired, and hopefully write some thoughtful poetry myself. If you want to follow me on this journey, I will be giving quick impressions of each book as I read it on my dedicated poetry-related Instagram page @samaapoetry.
I can’t wait to get into it! I think my first selection will be The Measuring of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom by the incomparable Toni Morrison.
If you have anything to recommend, let me know!
Some context for today’s words
FIVE:2:ONE Magazine is primarily dedicated to the transgressive, the progressive and the experimental.
The Sealey Challenge: An Expansive Way of Reading Poetry ‹ Literary Hub — lithub.com
It was a Wednesday afternoon when I saw a notification pop up on my Instagram, that someone had mentioned me in their story: my chapbook had been tagged in someone’s story as “Day 21 of #TheSealeyC…
Interview with Nicole Sealy. By Laura Buccieri.