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Sealey Challenge 2022

Guest blog by Kym Deyn / Twitter @shortestwitch

It’s August again which for keen poetry readers means attempting the Sealey Challenge! For those unfamiliar that means reading 31 poetry collections or pamphlets over the 31 days of August. It’s a wonderful way to get through your backlog OR become familiar with new voices. 

To help (or possibly to add more books to the ever growing to-read pile) I thought I’d offer a handful of recommendations. These are a few of my favourites that I’ve read over the last two years working with the Poetry Book Society.

15 Second Plays by The Debate Society
First things first, I’m going to cheat and offer a selection of teeny tiny plays. 15 Second Plays is a pamphlet-sized anthology filled with (you guessed it!) plays that could be performed in 15 seconds. By turns moving and intensely bizarre, these plays/poems are like nothing else.

The Firth by John Glenday (Mariscat Press)
The Firth is a portrait of a landscape and a family, and how those things intertwine. Wildflowers and seabirds become character studies, places turn into moments. Glenday’s language is filled with an effortless grace, so beautiful it aches. 

The Stone Age by Jen Hadfield (Picador)
Hadfield embodies the voices of rocks, stones, gates and the landscape of the Shetlands. Each poem operates with astonishing attention to detail, even strimmers are caught and examined in the poet’s gaze.

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)
A stunning collection with a focus on grief, music and history, Chingonyi writes with an intense precision. His work balances multiple inheritances and moves through the banks of the Zambezi river to London and Leeds with vulnerability and skill. 

Mercy by Róisín Kelly (Bloodaxe)
Kelly writes in a landscape caught between Catholicism and its pagan roots. Each poem feels full of the unexpected as tigers prowl through Leitrim, olives ripen in a Portuguese valley and a grotto to the Virgin Mary illuminates a deserted road.

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