Poets Take Action in Wake of Gulf Coast Disaster

by Staff

On Tuesday the second annual United Nations World Oceans Day was observed, a date that also marked the seventh week of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As the disaster continues to devastate the environment and communities of the Gulf Coast, poets Amy King and Heidi Lynn Staples, as founders of the online poetry forum and activist group Poets for Living Waters, worked to organize a series of readings to both acknowledge the day of ocean advocacy and propose one means of processing the catastrophe—through the written word, and not the corporate, rhetorical kind. Readings were held Tuesday night in locations including New York City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Dublin, Vancouver, and Tallahassee, Florida.

Poets for Living Waters, which launched in May as a response to the Gulf Coast disaster, features on its Web site poems by writers including Alicia Ostriker, Evie Shockley, Ron Silliman, and Franz Wright; a list of resources for activists; and calls to action, with yesterday's simultaneous readings being the first of the group's planned events. King and Staples, who are accepting poetry submissions via e-mail, report that they're now receiving around one hundred poems a week, with more than fifteen hundred visitors coming to the Web site each day.

In the video below, a few of the site's contributing poets take part in Tuesday's reading at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, New York. The readers, in order of appearance, are Tamiko Beyer reading "The Water in You", Ana Božičević reading "War on the Lunch Break," and Nicole Cooley reading from Muriel Rukeyser's long poem "The Book of the Dead." Other featured readers were Julian T. Brolaski, Brenda Iijima, and Rajiv Mohabir.