Call for Work – Gulf Coast Poems

Poets for Living Waters is a poetry action in response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico begun on April 20, 2010, one of the most profound human-made ecological catastrophes in history. Former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky describes the popularity of poetry after 9/11 as a turn away from the disaster’s overwhelming enormity to a more manageable individual scale. As we confront the magnitude of this recent tragedy, such a return may well aid us.

The first law of ecology states that everything is connected to everything else.  An appreciation of this systemic connectivity suggests a wide range of poetry will offer a meaningful response to the current crisis, including work that harkens back to Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing regional effects.

This online periodical is the first in a planned series of actions.  Further actions will include a print anthology and a public reading in Washington DC.

If you would like to submit work for consideration, please send 1-3 poems, a short bio, and credits for any previously published submissions to:

Editors: Amy King & Heidi Lynn Staples

28 thoughts on “Call for Work – Gulf Coast Poems

    • We’ll be posting poems as “clean up” carries on. No end in sight as of yet unfortunately. Please send as soon as possible! Thanks, Mackenzie~

      • no ending worth remembering

        the wars go on and on, proceeding
        one to the other like bones bobbing
        in boiling pig fat. like the slap

        of fresh meat hitting a marble
        killing floor. warm, gurgling fear
        mixed with rich black oxygenized blood.

        like a haliburton stockholder eating
        corned beef on rye, slobbering cold
        beer from the philippines,

        there is no end to it, no stopping it,
        no letting it wash away in the break
        of fresh waters, the slime of oil rain.

        there is never an end to it,
        the wars proceed, they go on and on,
        the killing machine efficient

        as a razor to the ear. one president
        to the next, one arrogant fool
        to the next, the constant con game,

        the greasy lips of the sucker fish
        pressed against the crematory glass.
        greedy oil scum drifts in the gulf,

        coagulating the hyacinth,
        smothering shrimp-bed and crab nets
        with slime, air fouled, humid

        with stench from the belly of war
        dead, bloated, quiet as a dead women
        in a smoldering car in iraq.

        solitary as ants on a straw bag
        beside a highway bomb near baghdad:
        there is no end to it, no stopping it,

        no letting war rot in a bone bleached
        desert, or a vice president’s back yard
        swimming pool; no calling out

        in the middle of the night for peace
        while the lion eats its young beneath
        a putrescent beltway moon. the wars

        proceed. they go on and on like bad
        cinema, like an unkillable walt disney,
        the innocent opened up like ripe fruit

        dropped from a drone tree; like carrion
        let loose from the derrick claw in the gulf,
        the murdered reduced collaterally

        to acceptable statistics. quantifiable,
        given the need to kill, the need to grease
        the machine of immolation with venture

        capital, human hair, body parts washed
        ashore at nagasaki. watching the oil
        slug swell, purple red faced,

        asphyxiating, inhaling oil from a pipe
        flat on his back on a blackened beach
        near chandeleur sound. the longitude

        of these days circumnavigate the moment,
        time is a trolly car run through
        the streets of Bern in 1905, blossoming

        hiroshima fleurs du mal forty years
        later, the odiferous wretch of war
        wafts through the garden, casting inky

        shadows on the lilac and the lilly:
        we have utterly failed the future so
        utterly; so utterly one day the earth

        shall fail us, fail us
        not with a whimper, nor a bang;
        but with no ending worth remembering.

  1. I am answering your call for action with poems and have joined Poets for Living Waters. A tremendous idea, Amy. Time to stop wringing hands and brain cells and act the only way I know how, with voice putting love into action — which is poetry according to Muriel Rukeyser. So much gratitude to you for seeing the need to do this action.

  2. Thank you so much for doing this, I’ve been writing poems for the past week and a half, utterly tormented by what’s happening. I cut my hair last week and packed nylons off to donate to Matter of Trust. Will be submitting tomorrow. Thank you.


    • Annie, Thank you so much for your solidarity, your intensity of vision that lets in the significance of this crisis and your full response, your action.
      Wonderful that you sent your hair–those hair booms are getting used! Thanks!

  3. Dear Amy
    Thank you for informing me of this great work you are doing.Can I send poems related to ecology and environment or should be on the specific subject.Is there a dead line for submission?
    Thank You

  4. Thank you for posing this opportunity for positive expression. Of immediate response I’ve posted a copy of your call for poems to our poem community site, We Write Poems and will hope it brings something more your way.
    Regards, Neil Reid

  5. Thank you Amy.I am posting copy of your calls to my poet friends too.With love and prayers

  6. I’m as concerned as anyone but I don’t get the purpose as stated:
    >>The first law of ecology states that everything is connected to everything else. An appreciation of this systemic connectivity suggests a wide range of poetry will offer a meaningful response to the current crisis, including work that harkens back to Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing regional effects. <<
    Forgive me.
    Somehow, maybe this will help, but I am not sure how.

    • Charity,

      Thanks for asking your question! What I hope is that this site helps by facilitating a healthy consciousness on an individual and collective level–this means helping to raise awareness of painful issues, to release pent up energies, as well as comfort, console, generate solidarity. And maybe we can all realize we ourselves and our cells are all connected and so our shared voices have the power to flower! 🙂

  7. Thanks for doing this – I sent you something that I hope may help. This is a truly great idea and the destruction of our Gulf Coast should truly weigh on us all (perhaps more than it seems to).

  8. I am joining you soon …. just dropped in to say … it’s words that we have to creat ripples and tsunamis in the barren soul of man … thank you for raising your voice …

  9. From a Living Water Poet

    When I woke on day thirty / my brain said:/ There will be water.// I’d mulled and brooded over / the doomsday scenario / ready to throw in the towel. / Concede: we’ve come to the end. // Once again speechless / in the face of disaster / I take solace in the desperate / loving / passionate outpourings of others / in words and in deed / hoping to break / my own paralysis. // I thought of this, biking along the Cache La Poudre / our now mightily swollen river. / It flows into the Platte / which feeds the Missouri / swelling the Mississippi. / There will be water. / I’ve seen powerful volumes roll down from the Rockies./ Birds, fish, humans / take heart. There will be water. / Fresh water.

    Irmgard Hunt

  10. This is our home Marian Veverka
    1839 S. Bayview Dr.
    Marblehead OH 43440

    Once, the land and the water were one. The land separated from the water and a beach appeared – a bare shelf – a divide – one side solid, the other liquid.

    The division did not always stay the same. Generations of land and water, of rocks grazed and tumbled and worn down into gravel and even smaller grains of what we call sand The water became rivers, became lakes, ponds and streams, became rocky coastlines, became silty marshes. Back and forth they traveled, sometimes land, sometimes water but always the shelf, the barrier between.

    Plants appeared, tall, bristly rushes, fuzzy cat-tails, waving fields of grass that lived both beside the water and beneath it. Trees grew, ancient, twisted mangrove whose roots became a barrier. Man appeared and cultivated the wild grains that grew in the barriers.
    Rice that fed millions over the ages cultivated by hand, generations bending their hands down into the water, tending the small green spears – their staff of life.

    How little man knew of the fragility of this barrier, these endless miles of shore and seas that seemed to stretch to eternity and back again. He began by building docks for his boats, then bigger ships and bigger ports, whole cities spread upon waterfronts and still the ocean gave man what he needed to survive, his fish and his grain.

    This is what man decided – that food, clothing and all the thing necessary to life must be moved from one place to another, from the prairies, steppes and forests of the interior to the ports on the seas, and then across the seas until no portion of the earth remained unexplored.

    As man increased in numbers, he became careless with these gifts from the waters, and as
    Large pieces of the earth were unable to support his growing needs, he took and took from the sea even those resources that lay under the surface of the earth.

    Man brought mighty mountains to rubble so that he could get the coal. He has drilled wells beneath the sea to bring up oil, all to feed his addiction to power.

    There is no thing that lasts forever. All things change shape, form, location, disappear from our sight, re-appear in some altered state. The coal in the mountains, the oil beneath
    The earth that man has become so dependent on that he has fought wars over them, all of these will go away. Some, in their leaving, will take pieces of the earth, itself with them.

    Why can’t we realize how precious these gifts are, that they need to be tended carefully, that those parts of destroyed earth will not be productive in any foreseeable generation?

    Just as each human life is precious, so are the ancient resources of the earth .. Where will we go if we destroy the foundations that make life on this planet possible?

    Biog, I am over 70 so I can remember when we believed that everything was possible.
    Some of us believed that man would visit the planet Mars in our lifetime. We did
    Walk on the moon, but what we gained from that excursion is still in doubt. My
    Generation is older but there is still much to learn about our home, planet Earth.

  11. aporia

    moving to the very edge of things, life even,
    a bitter spring for mongolia’s nomads, millions
    of livestock dead, people in a state of shock.

    here the obese dress in green, a man in a wheel
    chair thumbs through a history magazine, the music
    drones on and on, a nation filled with slobs, barbarians,

    acting out grotesque rituals of america in decline.
    moving at the edge of things, life even, until a pregnant
    woman, dressed in scarlet, sits at the next table, opens
    a thick novel and begins to read all about her future.

    at the very edge of things, the oil washing up
    in Louisiana this morning, life even, the national oceanic
    atmospheric administration confirming small flood

    slicks have entered the ‘loop current,’ that fast stream
    of moving water which circumambulates the gulf
    before bending around florida, and up the atlantic coast.

    Robert Philbin

  12. Here is a pantoum I wrote on the subject that I posted on the website Big Tent Poetry. I am a new poet, never published anything, mother of 2 who lives in Denver, Colorado.

    Twenty First Century Brimstone

    They say it will go on ‘til August-
    these furious writhing coils of oil
    retching poisonous flumes into the sea
    scalding the lungs of pelicans.

    These furious writhing coils of oil
    intended for earthly satisfactions, are now
    scalding the lungs of pelicans,
    welding their plumes, stifling their breath.

    Like Prometheus, we risked it all for
    the promise of technology-
    whatever device consumes our lives fastest so we can hurry home to
    watch the freezing inferno on our big screen tv’s.

    The promise of technology
    fails remarkably and we fiercely cast our brand of blame while we
    watch the freezing inferno on our big screen tv’s,
    our chilled summer mirrors steaming with our outrage.

    Like Pandora, we gape at the devil’s rising entrails,
    raw and swollen, and we pull at our damp collars,
    sickened by this summer’s heat wave.
    They say it will go on ‘til August.

  13. Question more than bleak blackened water consummed by oil
    Surely GREED can not be the only antagonist in the BP Drama of incessant exploitation
    All one need do is listen to the pelicans, swamp fauna, and fish
    As they curse progress with their last struggle to breathe or float
    In another suffocation of dislocated respect for life
    Question more than bleak blackened water consummer by oil
    The real catastrophe our rage doesn’t spill deeper than the oil
    And our compassion for the earth simply rides up to the gas station for one more installment of gas
    Surely GREED can not be the only antagonist in the BP Dramas of incessant exploitation
    But in the meanwhile wipe off the fish and don’t serve them at the party.

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