Tuesday, September 1, 2020

What I Learned from the Sealey Challenge

Although it's been happening since 2017,  I hadn't heard of the Sealey Challenge until this year.  Much earlier, poet Dave Bonta read one volume of poetry each day of April, which is National Poetry Month.  I couldn't imagine being able to do that.

I'm still not sure why I thought I could do it this year.  It was August 1 when I decided.  If the first day of  August hadn't been on a Saturday, I might not have tried.  If my spouse hadn't been taking a long nap that day, I might not have decided to make the leap.  If I didn't have a few books of poetry in my book stacks (as opposed to my packed up book boxes), I might have lost the opportunity.

Some people spent months planning their Sealey Challenge--in fact, that's how I found out about it, by people posting photos of their stacks of books that were ready for August.  I did worry that I wouldn't have enough to read, since many of my books are still packed away.  Happily, I can still get books from the public library, although the process is much more laborious.  

I did a short post each day, giving a micro review of each book.  Here's an example:  "The Sealey Challenge, Day 29: Richard Blanco's "How to Love a Country." We are all exiles now, longing for a country that may never love us back. Or will it? Blanco says, "to know a country takes all we know of love" (p. 70), and sometimes we're rewarded. Moving poems exploring the terrain of exile and immigration and love of all sorts."

I also posted a photo of each book, a photo which said something about the book.  This process took on a life of its own--I'll write a separate blog post about that process later on this week.

So what did I learn?  The most important thing:  I have more time than I think that I do.  It's not a new lesson for me, but it's important to revisit it periodically.  I realized how much time I usually spend in somewhat mindless scrolling and internet zipping.  Why is it so hard for me to avoid those traps?

I also learned that my poetry stands up against the poetry I've been reading.  I've got some manuscripts which are publishable.  I didn't really have doubts, but it's interesting to read a lot of recently published work and to see how my manuscript would fit in.

I chose to read only female writers and the male writers that I included were people of color. I've spent plenty of time reading white male writers.  Most of the authors I chose were familiar to me, in part because I didn't spend the month of July planning to explore new authors.  But I was happy with my choices.  Even when I read books I had already read, it was a treat to revisit them.

For the most part, I read each book in one fell swoop.  Most of them took me about an hour of concentrated reading.  I often planned to pick up the book when I wasn't likely to be interrupted.  It wasn't the kind of deep reading I might ordinarily do, but it was rewarding in itself.

I learned that the perfect page # for a book of poems is 65-80 pages.  I read a few volumes that were over 120 pages--that's a bit too much for most readers to sustain the focus.

I had hoped that I might emerge from the month of August with all sorts of poems of my own to write.  Perhaps that will happen.  I've felt a bit more fluid in that way in the last 2 weeks.

All in all, it was a great experience--but I am ready to slow down from the breakneck pace of August.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Good to read about your process, and your reflection on it. I am pooped, too! I also learned a lot, I think, but it's still sinking in...!