It’s almost August, in this year of vaccines and variants and ongoing plagues, and I’m not ready for the Sealey Challenge. I’m not best pleased with myself about it: since I began doing the Challenge in 2019, I’ve tried to plan well ahead, to make sure I knew exactly what I’d be reading as August days shorten and the winds of fall pick up. But 2021 has been a long, difficult year for me, and this summer has been wretched, and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be reading come August—only that, come hell or high water, I will be reading a book of poetry a day.
This hasn’t been a great year, which isn’t, of course, a personal thing: it’s been lousy for a lot of people. (Like Richard of Gloucester, I am not ready for hot girl summer and my cat whines when I leave. I am, however, so hot I’m headed for heat stroke if I’m not careful. I was not born for this weather.) It’s possibly been a bit extra lousy for me, thanks to family medical emergencies and ongoing issues, all of which have, together with overwork and workplace stress and COVID, combined to make my sketchy attention span abysmally bad. So, then, the question becomes quite simple: what will I, in this year of variants and vaccines and fact-free “information,” be able to read in the course of a day?
Last year, I tried to stick to shorter books, although I wasn’t always successful. Christopher Columbus dogged my steps last year, which was an accident—I didn’t realize I was choosing poetry in which Columbus slaughtered his way through the Americas, again and again, reaching out his bloody hand across years and miles and generations. It was also perfect, a brutal, often beautiful reminder of the horrors of white supremacy and coloniality in a year exploding with pent-up rage and fear at the brutality of structural white supremacy, itself baked into the coloniality Columbus and so many other espoused. It was beautiful poetry, and often heartbreaking, and sometimes funny, and, though it wasn’t always short enough, I think I chose well. (It’s worth noting that the poetry I read for the 2019 Sealey Challenge was phenomenal, and, as in the case of Layli Long Soldier’s monumental Whereas, totally not short enough for a dyslexic to read comfortably in a day.)
So, this summer? I’m still not entirely sure. I have an odd feeling that I’ll be making more than one trip to the Seminary Co-Op this August, and, if they reopen, to 57th Street Books as well. I’m looking through my picture books, too, because picture books are often pure poetry, and I plan to celebrate them this year as well. This August will bring more stress, and more family medical issues, and likely more changes in my life, but it’s also going to bring a book of poetry a day. I’m very much looking forward to those words.