The Sealey Challenge is a community of poetry enthusiasts who endeavor to read 31 poetry books each day in August. The challenge was created in 2017 by poet Nicole Sealey to allow herself to read more poetry for pleasure in the wake of her own book release and a busy schedule. She shared her challenge online and it took off on social media.
As of 2022, the Sealey Challenge is now partnered with the University of Arizona. The university declared the “Poetry Center will provide administrative support, build awareness, and seek to grow the number of readers who adopt the challenge.” There are even some poetry publishers that are promoting collections for the challenge.
Additionally, the Sealey Challenge can be found on Twitter (X), Facebook, and Instagram. It has over 3k followers and the hashtag has 14.5k posts on Instagram. Support continues to grow with each passing year!
The goal of the Sealey Challenge has been best reviewed by Laura Buccieri, author of the article, “The Sealey Challenge: An Expansive Way of Reading Poetry.” She stated that the challenge leaves participants “. . . with the knowledge of 31 fresh voices, a sense of belonging to a discovered community, and—hopefully—a newfound (or renewed) love of poetry.” Thus, there is no official prize for completing the 31 days, but each collection of poetry that is read is a prize unto itself.
“There is no prize waiting at the end; instead, participants are left with the knowledge of 31 fresh voices, a sense of belonging to a discovered community, and—hopefully—a newfound (or renewed) love of poetry.”—Laura Buccieri
Challengers can find all the info on the website (thesealeychallenge.com). They even have a list of recommended reads for anyone who wants a place to start. Some of these suggestions range from “The Coal Life” by Adam Vines, a collection of poems about a “middle zone” between opposite extremes where most people live their lives, to “JAW” by Albert Abonado, a collection of poems about “microaggressions in America” juxtaposing American and Filipino culture.
Bookstores, poetry prize organizations, and poetry publishers all get in on the action. Many bookstores and publishers provide poetry enthusiasts with reading suggestions, even some that they have published. Poetry prize organizations highlight some of the collections of their previous winners.
Some of the organizations encouraging the challenge are Knopf (an imprint of Penguin Random House), Gray Wolf Press, and the Griffin Poetry Prize. Nicole Sealey’s new poetry collection The Ferguson Report: An Erasure, published by Knopf, was just released on August 15, 2023 (at the time of this article’s publication), a perfect collection to start your next challenge.
Give It A Try!
It is not only the diversity of poetic voices that makes this challenge come alive. The massive sources of energy pushing to the end of August every year are the readers. Everyone in the community is cheering each other on, sending love in the comments, and posting their most recent reads.
This community is a place for poetry lovers, and it is welcoming to those who want to give poetry a taste. While the challenge is 31 days, readers are encouraged to pick up some poetry to read whenever they can. If you have a poetry book that you haven’t had the chance to dive into yet, now is your reminder to dust off the cover and read it.
Even if it’s just one collection, you can enjoy the journey. If you have more time, try your hand at 31 books when the next Sealey Challenge rolls around. You can even print out the certificate of completion and claim the bragging rights. Woo hoo!