by Joey Phoenix
Many of my conversations I have with the non-binary poet Joey Gould go just like this:
“Hey Joey, what’s in your world right now? I say.
“Well Joey, let me tell you what I’m up to.” they say.
They are always up to something.
This time, Joey Gould, the author of beautiful recent work The Acute Avian Heart (You can buy yours here or read the profile I wrote about them last year in Love, Grief, and Ornithology in Joey Gould’s The Acute Avian Heart), told me about how, for the second year in a row, they’re going to be doing the Sealey Challenge this August.
The goal: to read a new book of poetry or a poetry chapbook every day for 31 straight days.
This ambitious hallenge was prompted by Nicole Sealey, a St. Thomas/Virgin Islands-born Black poet and the author of the collections Ordinary Beast (2017) and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named (2016).
Nicole admits she started the challenge in 2017 as a way to get herself to read more poetry in between getting appointed as Executive Director at Cave Canem Foundation — an organization dedicated to Black poets and poetry – and promoting Ordinary Beast. She posted about her goals on social media as a way to stay accountable and encourage others to join her.
Now in its fourth year, The Sealey Challenge (#TheSealeyChallenge) has quite a following. You can see her list of book recommendations here.
Lucky for us, Joey has given me their own list of their personal recommendations, along with the note –
“I emphasized groups I’d like to signal boost: local authors, women, queer people, and BIPOC. I feel like enough people know who Walt Whitman is and we don’t need to “introduce him to the class”, so to speak. Many of the authors who are not local to the North Shore have performed at Mass Poetry Festivals in Salem over the years.
“Finally, I include some books I loved when I did the challenge last year because I think the list should reflect my own practice of reading.”
So, in no particular order, here are Joey Gould’s 31 recommendations for #TheSealeyChallenge August 2020 edition.
It’s a great list.
- Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey
- Rewilding by January Gill O’Neil
- The Tradition by Jericho Brown
- When My Body Was a Clinched Fist by Enzo Silon Surin
- How Her Spirit Got Out by Krysten Hill
- Via Negativa by July Westhale
- Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
- Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith
- Hard Child by Natalie Shapero
- Sensorium by Emily Corwin
- Day Unto Day by Martha Collins
- The Wild Iris by Louise Glück
- What the Living Do by Marie Howe
- Oracle by Cate Marvin
- Inquisition by Kazim Ali
- Milk by Dorothea Lasky
- Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
- Bluets by Maggie Nelson
- The Lumberjack’s Dove by GennaRose Nethercott
- The Final Voicemails by Max Ritvo
- Ampersand Revisited by Simeon Berry
- Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night by Morgan Parker
- Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar
- IRL by Tommy Pico
- Morning Haiku by Sonia Sanchez
- Holy Moly Carry Me by Erica Meitner
- Soft Science by Franny Choi
- Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
- Say Uncle by Kay Ryan
- If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar
- Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón
If you would like to follow Joey’s progress, follow them on Twitter @toshines or, if you would like to join on the challenge, join the Facebook group here!
Joey Phoenix is a non-binary performer, the Managing Editor for Creative North Shore, and the Digital Content Manager for North Shore Pride. They love hearing what creative people are up to. So if you’re up to something, send them a message at firstname.lastname@example.org