Poets for Living Waters is a poetry forum begun in 2010 as a response to the Gulf Oil Disaster of April 20, 2010, one of the most profound man-made ecological catastrophes in history. The initial project included hundreds of poetry and poetics publications, and a series of international reading events. You can read more about the initial endeavor in “Poets Acts on Oil Spill” by Shell Fischer at the Poets & Writers website.

While devastating, we recognize that the extreme event of the Gulf Oil Disaster may be best understood as merely a partial manifestation of a widespread consciousness producing global ecological crisis. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that in response to the contemporary situation, we refrain from appeals to effective argument but rather stir affective compassion: “We should not talk in terms of what they should do, what they should not do, for the sake of the future. We should talk to them in such a way that touches their hearts…” Poets for Living Waters contributes to this latter conversation, motivated by the belief that poetry helps release us from moral platitudes, returns us to our bodies, returns us to our senses.

We are currently accepting submissions written in response to prompts published in Big Energy Poets: Ecopoetry Thinks Climate Change. Please see the Call for Work page for more information.

Editors: Amy King and Heidi Lynn Staples


Of I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press), John Ashbery describes Amy King’s poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” Safe was one of Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011. King teaches English & Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College and serves on the Executive Board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. She also joins the ranks of Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson and Pearl Buck as the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the WNBA Award (Women’s National Book Association).

Heidi Lynn Staples is the author of four published poetry collections, Guess Can Gallop (New Issues, 2004) and Dog Girl (Ahsahta, 2007) Noise Event (Ahsahta, 2013), and the forthcoming A*A*AA*A.  Her poems are published widely in numerous journals including Best American Poetry 2004, Caketrain, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Green Mountains Review, Ploughshares, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere.  She is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Alabama.

19 thoughts on “About

  1. Thank you so much for your visionary act to create this space for poets who care
    to open up about this ecological disaster and pollution of an edenic area of the earth.
    I am from Canada but this disaster affects us all (as you pointed out everything and everyne
    connects.) I hope to send poems asap that will voice my own individual grief at this manmade

  2. In a string of synchronicity, I was noting that the most accurate and relevant accounting of this disaster was coming from poets and comics (and not the corporate disinfomercial complex). Then I discovered Poets for Living Waters and the earlier thought was validated. For your acts of creation resulting in this space, thank you.

  3. Thank you so much. What you are doing is really wonderful. Although I live very far from the States, I perceive the BP Gulf oil disaster as a personal tragedy. I have submitted my poem and hope to hear from you soon.

  4. What is a ‘poetry action’? Or a ‘reading action’?

    In coining these neologisms, let us not confuse ourselves about the nature of the distinction between responding to a crisis and failing to respond to a crisis.

    • Thanks for your comments John.

      The phrases ‘reading action’ and a ‘poetry action’ have been specifically created to point our awareness toward the fact that self expression, listening, and distributing ideas are all indeed actions. One typically may not think of them as such because they are quite miniature in scale. A ‘poetry action’ is profoundly nonheroic. By asserting ‘reading actions’ and ‘poetry actions’ we are enacting a value-system of the nonheroic and promoting one acknowledging the systemic and relational.

      A poem is more like a plankton than like a vigilante. Whoever thinks of plankton as particularly active? But did you know that within the plankton are the seeds of the clouds?

      Poets are cultivating new climates for change.

      Thanks again.

      All best, Heidi

  5. A friend pointed me here this morning, and I am so impressed — and grateful — for your activism and your recognition of the place the arts can hold in those efforts. Shelley said that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. We do have impact, and we must write to the crises of the moment. It’s our job.

  6. I express my sense of gratitude for your noble cause for the entire mankind. Poetry is the purest form of democratic expression and it can usher in a sky change in our attitude. Your endeavor in this direction is worth praising. I remain grateful to you for accepting my Poem “Aspiring Green” to be a part of your mission.

    P K Padhy, Ph.D

    • Editors,
      Could you please direct me to a current email for Gwyn McVay not on facebook or twitter.

      Your site here makes the daily difference for me between hope and despair over the catastrophe in the Gulf and the general degradation of our universe.

      I think you touched off a poem fest here.

      Thank you

  7. Like your “poets for a purpose” theme.
    Especially, the flowing theme of water.
    Water is an entity deeply embraced by my spirit.
    Through water we are all connected with each other and the universe.
    Blessings love light,
    William Waterway

  8. Hey Heidi,
    So I wrote a poem the other day just for this website. I’m still editing it, but i just wanted to let you know that I really respect this idea. I feel like this website really allows people to be heard.

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