Dear Body of Water: Poets Across the Globe Write a Love Letter to the Water That Sustains Us

Wick Poetry Center collaborates on new global environmental writing project

Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center is collaborating on a new global poem to pay tribute to the liquid that sustains life.

“Dear Body of Water,” Wick’s newest collaboration with the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, invites writers to speak to the bodies of water that have shaped their lives.

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David Hassler, the Bob and Walt Wick executive director of the Wick Center, said the project began with environmental writer and poet Gretchen Ernster Henderson, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin.

Henderson sought collaboration with Arizona’s Poetry Center, which in turn asked Wick to join the project. The Arizona center previously collaborated with Wick for “Dear Vaccine,” a global poem that began as an expression of hope at the emergence of vaccines to fight COVID-19.

David Hassler
David Hassler

The water poem began with simple postcard submissions and has since expanded to include a website and digital writing tools, which has allowed the project to grow internationally. The website includes an interactive map that shows from where the writing submissions are coming and helps to pinpoint geographically the bodies of water that the poetry is celebrating.

“It’s a global conversation uniting our care and concern for water,” Hassler said.

People are encouraged to write letters and poems to beloved rivers, oceans, aquifers, creeks, ponds, lakes and other bodies of water as part of the collective poetry project. This worldwide endeavor hopes to refocus people’s relationship with water, so that it comes to be viewed not as a resource to be exploited, but as a living entity worthy of care, appreciation and protection, particularly given existing water crises throughout the world.

“Dear Body of Water” is part of the larger “Poets for Science” project that has been expanding in recent years.

Hassler gave a presentation on Poets for Science at the American Geophysical Union’s recent conference in San Francisco, California, helping to lead that group in its own poem creation.  

“I think that there is a growing awareness and consciousness of connecting an emotional response with an intellectual response and integrating the two,” Hassler said. “I think that poetry and art help us integrate the knowledge that is often difficult to feel and process.”

Art provides a way for individuals to synthesize the unwelcome news that often comes from science – in this instance the news of climate change and the devastating effects it is having on the world’s water supplies, Hassler said.  

“It helps us to build a kind of an emotional resilience to help educate our emotions and to connect with each other so that we’re not alone in our grief or we’re not alone in our feelings of anxiety or anxiousness by connecting with others and processing it through the lens of art and poetry,” Hassler said.

The strength that comes from connecting with others through art will hopefully give people the courage to address issues of climate change, he said.

“I think the art centers us to begin to have the resilience to take action,” Hassler said. 


POSTED: Tuesday, February 13, 2024 02:56 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2024 03:56 PM
Lisa Abraham
Kent State University