A poet of existential magnitude, deep intellect and playful subversion, America’s Nicole Sealey writes poems that are restless in their empathic, succinct examination and lucid awareness of what it means to be human.
The ranging scope of enquiry undertaken in
ordinary beast – at times philosophical, emotional, and experiential – is evident in each thrilling twist of image by the poet. In brilliant, often ironic lines that move from meditation to matter of fact in a single beat, Sealey’s voice is always awake to the natural world, to the pain and punishment of existence, to the origins and demises of humanity. Exploring notions of race, sexuality, gender, myth, history and embodiment with profound understanding, Sealey’s is a poetry that refuses to turn a blind eye or deny. It is a poetry of daunting knowledge.
Ordinary Beast was first published in the US by Ecco in 2017, and was a finalist for the PEN Open Book Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. This first UK edition of her debut collection is published by Bloodaxe in 2023 at the same time as her second book of poetry, The Ferguson Report: An Erasure, an excerpt from which won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2021.
‘Though these poems are attuned to their own devastation, they continue unapologetically with their own aspirations.’ – Claudia Rankine
'Nothing ordinary here. But beast? Yeah, that’s it. This thing has teeth.' – Patricia Smith
'Nicole Sealey is a poet for the ages, and this is a stunning debut.' – Tracy K. Smith
'These poems are marvels that should be read, re-read, and read aloud to others.' – Amy Tan
'These are poems of thrilling sonic and syntactical play, formal dexterity, mythmaking, and delight in the ordinary rendered strange by new juxtapositions.' – Natasha Trethewey
'Nicole Sealey is one of today’s most interesting poets... she steers us on a fantastic voyage through her infinitely brilliant mind.' –
'Quietly profound, Sealey’s first collected work flows with an avid heart and mind through questions of love, inheritance, friendship, and family—things that sustain us from one day to the next, made more precious by their fragility.' –
O, The Oprah Magazine
ordinary beast showcases a versatile artist as she plumbs an array of themes – racial injustice and gender marginalization – by appropriating forms popularized by dead white guys: Plutarch, Shakespeare, Donne. Her variations are vigorous, beguiling… Ordinary Beast is a triumph, and we can look forward to future spectacular work from this extravagantly gifted poet.’ – Hamilton Cain, Leonard Prize Reviews
Nicole Sealey reads from Ordinary Beast at Ledbury Poetry Festival
Nicole Sealey read twelve poems from
Ordinary Beast at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 2 July 2022. The poems included in her reading are: ‘the first person who will live to be one hundred and fifty years old has already been born’; ‘medical history’; ‘hysterical strength’; ‘candelabra with heads’; ‘in defense of “candelabra with heads”’; ‘heretofore unuttered’; ‘even the gods’; ‘imagine sisyphus happy’; ‘virginia is for lovers’; ‘unframed’; ‘cento for the night i said, “i love you”’ (extract); and ‘object permanence’.
Nicole Sealey reads ‘even the gods’ from Ordinary Beast
Nicole Sealey reads her poem ‘even the gods’ from
Ordinary Beast. Part of the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation's Read By series of poetry films. Directed by Jean Coleman and produced in collaboration with 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center.
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