Reading Poetry in August – The Sealey Challenge Days 21 to 31

Poetry books for the Sealey ChallengeI have completed the Sealey Challenge, reading a new poetry book each day for a whole month! Though I spent 3 days on one book (an anthology) and only dipped into some of them, that still means I have read at least part of 29 different poetry books over the last 31 days. And many of them have inspired me to write my own poems, so it has definitely been worthwhile. I’ve read several books that were simply sitting on my shelf un-read, as well as a few new ones ordered specially for the occasion, and some old favourites, plus a couple of poetry magazines. Here are my highlights from the final 11 days…  

On Day 21 I turned to Helium, a book given to me by a friend, written by Rudy Francisco, a poet whose work I hadn’t come across before. It is a mix of spoken word style poems, short pithy poems, funny poems, and poems that pack a punch, tackling issues around racism. I particularly like ‘Good Morning’, which begins:

Get out of bed.
The day has been
asking about you.

It dragged the sun into your
room this morning,

pulled an entire disco of light
through your curtains,

I could really do with remembering this poem on days when I’m finding it difficult to get up!Poetry book - After

The following day I read After by Jane Hirshfield, another book that has been on my shelf, un-read, for a while. I think it came free with something a few years ago. Many of the poems are exquisite, sad, poignant, and I particularly enjoyed this one, called ‘Dog and Bear’:

The air this morning,
blowing between fog and drizzle,

is like a white dog in the snow
who scents a white bear in the snow
who is not there.

Deeper than seeing,
deeper than hearing,
they stand and glare, one at the other.

So many listen lost, in every weather.

The mind has mountains,
Hopkins wrote, against his sadness.

The dog held the bear at bay, that day.

On Day 23 I read The Shaking City, a book by Cath Drake that uses metaphor to examine the impact of climate change on human lives. Then Day 24 led me to Loop of Jade, a memento from my first visit to the Hay Festival in 2016.

Poetry - Odes by Sharon OldsOn Day 25 I returned to Odes, by Sharon Olds, which I bought during my MA. I love how blunt it is, mixing humour with serious ponderings on human frailty in a way that really makes you think. Then, on Day 26, I read A Second Whisper by Lynn Hjelmgaard.

My book for Day 27 was Docklands, by Damian Walford Davies, a Victorian ghost story set in Cardiff Docks in 1890, at a time when it was the industrial heart of the city. Then, on Day 28, I turned to We Could Be Anywhere By Now by Katherine Stansfield. It contains several poems I’ve heard performed at our Cardiff open mic events, including a hilarious poem, ‘Fear of Flying Course’, and several amusing poems that explore the difficulties of learning Welsh. My favourite of these is ‘after living in Wales    my voice’. Here are the first few lines:

I know something has changed when I hear myself say
Loyce Lane instead of Low-is      I try again:

Clark Kent works with Loyce Lane at the Daily Planet
Loyce Lane doesn’t know that Clark is Superman

you say     that isn’t right      but I can’t make
my mouth go back to Low-is      it will only say Loyce

I had ordered a new book for Day 29, Pandemonium by Andrew McMillan, having previously read several of his poems and been influenced by his style of writing, particularly the use of space instead of punctuation. Many of the poems express the difficulty of depression, or of caring for someone who is struggling with depression. They are short and simple but powerful too, often without titles. Here is an extract from one of them:

beneath the topsoil of your matted hair        love     what horses
are at work on you     saddled with the twin desires
to get better and be dead     how loud they are
how heavy     how patient they sit at either end
of your repose     body stretching to its limits
and your head     and feet     tied to them
as they toss their fly-scabbed manes towards the ceiling

29 poetry books in 31 days

29 poetry books in 31 days

I will definitely be returning to this book at a later date for further inspiration.

At last I reached the final two days. For Day 30 I dipped back into Assembly Lines by Jane Commane, another book that I bought as a souvenier, this time from the Verve Poetry Festival in 2018.

Finally, on Day 31, I returned to Inhale / Exile by Abeer Ameer. It is full of extremely moving poems that depict the lives of those living with the devastation of war, and others that examine human nature with a wry sense of humour.

29 Poetry Books in 31 Days!

Declaration: I received free copies of A Second Whisper, We Could Be Anywhere By Now, and The Shaking City, from Seren Books

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