Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Ray Bradbury Challenge

"I'll give you a program to follow every night, a very simple program…one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights. From various fields: archaeology, zoology, biology, all the great philosophers of time, comparing them…But that means that every night then, before you go to bed, you’re stuffing your head with one poem, one short story, one essay—at the end of a thousand nights you’ll be full of stuff, won’t you?” - Ray Bradbury

So I have decided to take the Ray Bradbury Challenge.  Not for a thousand nights but from now till the end of the year.  I started yesterday and it's amazing what you learn even in two days from taking this challenge.  And the best part is that poems, essays, short stories are easily available online at no cost and even better if you have a Kindle unlimited subscription.

Here are the choices I made yesterday, Jan 31, 2023, and my thoughts on what I read:

Poem: Lament for the Makaris by William Dunbar (1460 -1530) - recommended by Harold Bloom in his book Great Poems of the English Language.  It's a powerful poem but you have to have a modern translation because it's written in an Old English style which I found very hard to decipher.

Essay: On The Morning After the Sixties by Joan Didion (1934 - 2021)  This essay published in 1970 is included in Didion's collection of Essays The White Album.  It's my first time reading Joan Didion and what a marvelous writer she is .  

Short Story:  The Boarded Window by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) This is considered a classic short story by Ambrose Bierce, often taught in schools and available free online.  It's a very creepy tale, reminiscent of Poe, and should be included in the horror genre. 

I am also keeping a journal so that I will remember the poem, short story and essay I read for each day throughout 2023.  For example, in today's challenge I have decided to go with:  

Poem: They Flee From Me by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503- 1542)  Essay: Beware of Feminist Lite by Chimamanda Ngozi (born 1977)  The Fly by Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)  

It's my first time reading Wyatt, Ngozi and Mansfield and I have found out some interesting things.  Sir Thomas Wyatt was a great poet but also an Ambassador in the Tudor Court during the reign of Henry VIII and he was close to Anne Boleyn.  How close is up for debate but when Anne Boleyn was arrested, Thomas Wyatt was also thrown into the Tower of London.  Fortunately, Wyatt had connections and so was released from prison.  Here is a passage from They Flee From Me which is frank in terms of Wyatt's relations with women but also the turmoil that must have been going on at the Tudor Court:

"They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,

With naked foot stalking in my chamber.

I have seen them, gentle, tame, and meek,

That now are wild, and do not remember

That sometime they put themselves in danger

To take bread at my hand; and now they range,

Busily seeking with a continual change"

And so thank you Ray Bradbury and when in the days, weeks and months ahead a poem, essay or short story really grabs me I will be sure to discuss it here at Reading Matters.


  1. Wow. What an interesting challenge! I could maybe do one poem, one essay and one short story each week, but every night? I'd probably fail by day three. ;D Good luck with it!

    1. Hi Lark, it's not as hard as I thought it was going to be although I'm only on day 3 but I am making sure for starters to choose short poems because some can be entire books. But I am learning new things every day thanks to this project.

  2. That is a great project, Kathy. I don't think I could keep up with it at that pace, but I know I want to read more short stories and more poetry.

  3. Hi Tracy, So far its not that hard but I have a book listing in chronological order the greatest poets in English language and I make sure not to choose poems that are long. Short Stories and essays can be found online and with essays I am including book reviews as an essay. So far I am learning so much and I am going to try to it all this year but no further.