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Poetry makes comeback

Nicole Sealey speaking at MONA

Nicole Sealey visits MONA for reading, inspires students to take on #UNKSealeyChallenge


Starting on Jan. 30, numerous UNK students have been sharing their interactions with poetry through the #UNKSealeyChallenge on Twitter. This was started in anticipation of Nicole Sealey, a nationally acclaimed poet, who appeared at the Museum of Nebraska Art on Feb. 6.

Sealey is described as “one of today’s most interesting poets” by Essence Magazine and as a “poet for the ages” by Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars. 

“Sealey is the author of The Animal After Whom the Other Animals Are Named, which won the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize, and Ordinary Beast which won the 2018 PEN Open Book Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award,” said Brad Modlin, the Reynolds Chair of Poetry for the English department.

The excitement for this event started 7 days prior. Encouraged by Modlin, students took to Twitter to share a series of poetry books with the hashtag #UNKSealeyChallenge throughout the days leading up to the event at MONA.

“Recognizing that Sealey did not have enough time for writing in her own life, she decided to read a book of poems every day for the month of August,” said Modlin. “Many others across the nation joined her in what became known as the #SealeyChallenge. This inspired us here to create the #UNKSealeyChallenge and over the past 7 days 20 students and I have committed ourselves to read a book of poems a day.”

The challenge consisted of Tweets that contained pictures of poetry books, quotes and words of encouragement from Modlin. This challenged students to set aside time to engage in poetry.

“I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, but the Sealey challenge challenged me to read a variety of poetry books and I found myself enjoying some of them,” said Jess Moser, an English and journalism student. “I’m definitely going to try to fit more poetry into my life because of this challenge. Although I might wait until after graduation for that!”

After Modlin and the English department opened the eyes of students to poetry, Sealey made an appearance at the MONA on Feb. 6 at 8 p.m.

As Sealey read, the audience, consisting of faculty, students and community members, were entranced by the poetry. Although Sealey was reserved when picking new poems, she mentioned small facts about the poems structure and topics, until she got to a poem about Brad Pitt. 

Sealey was able to connect with the audience with humor throughout the poem.

 “So, everyone knows who Brad Pitt is?” said Sealey. “Everyone knows he used to be married to Angelina Jolie and not me.” 

The reading ended with questions from the audience, book sales, pictures with Sealey and a book signing. 

“Her business in of itself a gift to the U.S. writing community and to us here at UNK,” Modlin said.

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