The Sealey Challenge

August is right around the corner and what better way to spend it than by reading a poetry collection every single day? That’s right, 31 poetry books in one month. Nicole Sealey, poet, professor, and the namesake, in 2017, invented the seemingly impossible -- but completely doable! -- challenge to read a book every single day for the whole month of August.

How can this be done? 

Here are some tips:

Obtain 31 books
This is the part that most skeptics are concerned about. Yes, that is a lot of books! And books are not cheap these days. But there are some ways to make the task manageable.

  • Some presses and publications will offer on their social media pages free copies or review samples of books from their press to support people attempting the Sealey Challenge!
  • Use your local library! Start reserving holds for some poetry books now!
  • Recruit your friends! Completing the challenge with friends helps because y’all can share titles that you have on hand. 
  • Buy used copies at reduced prices! We stock a variety of used poetry collections in addition to new books, and many other indie bookstores do the same. 
  • Little Free Libraries! This one is more of a if-you-happen-to-pass-by-one-and-see-a-poetry-book-then-grab-it scenario. But don't underestimate a little free library!

Read 31 books:
Another daunting task! But! There are work-arounds.

  • If, like me, you read slowly, then choosing poetry collections that are shorter is the way to go. Slim collections ranging from 50-150 pages are our bread and butter. Plus, there are usually less words-per-page than a novel or nonfiction read in poetry books depending on the form! 
  • Chapbooks are also advisable and tend to be even shorter than full-length collections. Support chapbook writers whenever possible!
  • Another option is to experience the poetry collection as an audiobook! Many are performed/read by the poet and can be consumed on a commute, while doing chores, or on a morning run (bless those who listen to poetry on their morning run :,) )

One last tip!
The goal is to read new poetry and build community! If you miss a day or cannot find that many books, no sweat! We just want people to experience the joy of reading poetry. Reading any number of poetry books during this month is a win! The Sealey Challenge creates and encourages the opportunity to support marginalized poets by reading their work, supporting independent bookstores and local libraries, and cultivating a community of poetry readers. There is a strong emphasis on community during this challenge --which social media helps facilitate. Look up #TheSealeyChallenge on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! And post photos of your books as you read them.The first year I completed the challenge I posted and tagged on Twitter each book I read, sometimes tagging the authors and presses or publishers. They loved seeing people read their books!

Recommendations:

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
Or listen to the audiobook!

Audiobook length: 1 hour, 7 min
Page count: 96

I enjoyed this collection as an audiobook from Libro.fm! Read by Shire, this collection both destroyed and reassembled me. The vibrant lyrical language will please poetry aficionados as well as those new to the craft. 

 


 

Girls that Never Die by Safia Elhillo
Or listen to the audiobook!

Audiobook length: 1 hour, 28 min
Page count: 144

The audiobook is also narrated by the poet! Elhillo’s collection is spellbinding and effuses vulnerability. 

 



 

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi

Page count: 64

I am so excited to read this collection! I love Copper Canyon Press and Emezi’s writing! You surely will not be able to put this down until you finish reading.

 

 

 


 

I Wear My Face in the Field by Ryan Downum

Page count: 40

Bookseller Emmy wrote a beautiful staff pick for this book and now I want to read it! (You can click the link to read the review!)

 

 

 

 

 

Gold by Rumi translated by Haleh Liza Gafori

Page count: 112 pages

A new collection of a beloved Persian poet! Translated by poet and vocalist Haleh Liza Gafori.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran 
Or listen to the audiobook!

Audiobook length: 2 hours, 23 min 
Page count: 112

I am looking forward to reading this one too! I have heard only praise for Tran’s forms, language, and lyrical qualities in their poetry. 

 

 

 

These collections are relatively new, but you can read your old favorites too! Again, this is not meant to be stringent, but an enjoyable experience.