Reading Poetry in August – The Sealey Challenge Days 11 to 20

Poetry book - Road Trip by Marvin ThompsonI am beginning to realise just how challenging it is to read a whole new poetry book for each day of the month. Even just dipping into a new book takes time, and I’m trying not to rush, as I want to make the most of any inspiration that strikes while I’m reading. I have not stuck to the rules completely, but have still tried to push myself to read more. So here is an overview of all the poetry books I have read over the last ten days, with some of the main highlights…  

Day 11 of The Sealey Challenge was a day of long-distance driving. So it was a relief to arrive home and find that a selection of poetry books had arrived while I was away. One of these was The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus. I used one of his poems as a prompt in one of my creative writing classes last year, and have been meaning to read the collection ever since. This is a fabulous book, and I spent quite a bit of time immersed in it. I love the way he incorporates sign language into his work. The title poem of this collection is incredibly moving, playing on the word ‘perseverance’ as he describes waiting for his father outside the pub of that name, time and time again.Poetry book - The Perseverance

My copy of The North magazine arrived on Day 12, so I decided to take a break from poetry collections and read that instead. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the very first poem referred to an old charcoal burner’s grave in the woods near where I grew up in Sheffield. It has never occurred to me to write about something like that before, though I’ve often walked past and wondered what his life was like. Perhaps that shows how often we mistakenly forget potential sources of inspiration. I also enjoyed reading an extract of poems by River Wolton from a longer work titled Year of Kindness, with some beautiful illustrations by Emma Burleigh. Here is one of them:

19 January

The cusp of a cold bright day, cold night
and the dust is lit by liquid notes.
I pinpoint the robin in the hazel,
make out its chest feathers puffing
with each snatched breath.
For a while everything else
kneels down and falls away.

Poetry Book - Sorry About The MessThe following day, with much sadness, I dipped into Sorry About The Mess, a beautiful and heart-rending collection that was published by Heather Trickey, earlier this year. She passed away a few weeks ago. I love her poem ‘Pobble’, and it will always remind me of her:

After I leaked hot tears onto the radiotherapy bed
and the nurse said she would have liked to give me a hug
but couldn’t, I swung by our local patch of water.

This is the Channel. And I am the Pobble,
recklessly dabbling my toes
having already removed my paper mask.

A friend once sat hereabouts and sang a song to the Severn.
Brown/blue, two things can be true. Right now it looks
like sparkling shit. This poem is not about Pobbles
and it will not win prizes.

After this I decided to delve into 100 Poems to Save the Earth. I definitely needed more than one day for this anthology, and ended up devoting three days to it in total. It inspired me to write a few poems of my own. I will be posting a full review of this one soon…

For Day 17 I was delighted to receive my copy of Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. This is a fairly new journal, and I’d been meaning to purchase a copy for a while. It has already gained a strong reputation for high quality diverse poetry.

Poetry books for The Sealey Challenge days 1 to 20On Day 18 I began reading Marvin Thompson’s debut collection Road Trip, published by Peepal Tree Press. I love his style of writing, weaving all sorts of thoughts and observations into every poem so that they become multilayered and thought-provoking.

On Day 19 I dived into Zoe Skoulding’s Footnotes to Water, and was particularly impressed by her varied use of form. There is a fantastic pantoum called ‘Archaeology Report’, and I enjoyed reading her poem ‘Gull Song’, with its relentless chant, as I’m currently being haunted by my own local seagull colony. Here is an extract:

…we come with necks like monuments to nothing
we come with eyes as cold as spreadsheets there is no warmth
in our endless whiteness just the grey shadow of possession
wherever you are you can hear us…

Poetry book - Pattern beyond ChanceThis was followed, on Day 20 by Patterns of Chance, the debut collection of Stephen Payne. The poems in this book really make you think about thinking. His next book is due to be launched in September. And the poetry reading challenge continues…

Just eleven more days to go!

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Declaration: I received free copies of 100 Poems to Save the Earth and Footnotes to Water from Seren Books

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2 thoughts on “Reading Poetry in August – The Sealey Challenge Days 11 to 20

  1. Always interesting to read your updates and thoughts about your reading. You are so active! I’m off on an Arvon residential with Helen Mort in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to meeting her in the flesh!

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