Reading brings poet’s perspective to environmental issues

Staples’ presentation was well-received by an audience of students and UConn Creative Writing Program members. (Judah Shingleton/The Daily Campus)

As an ecopoet and literary editor, Heidi Lynn Staples gave a different perspective on pressing environmental concerns while reading her original poems Thursday night at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Storrs Center. After reading her poems, Staples, a professor in the creative writing MFA Program at the University of Alabama and the editor of several poetry collections, gave a short talk about being an editor and the editing and publishing business.

Staples’ work touches on environmental issues like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, clean water and the large amount of garbage that humans produce. The poet read from her forthcoming collection “A**A*A*A,” a work inspired by her experience camping in the Mobile Bay Watershed area. Several of these poems also took inspiration from Yelp reviews of the national parks in which Staples camped.

“A**A*A*A” is a word that comes from “Albamaha,” which is plural for “Alabama people.”

“Alabama is actually a tribe, and I wanted to reference that history without appropriating it,” Staples said.

Some of the other poems Staples read were inspired by the empty granola bar wrappers she always noticed in her office. She appropriated some of the words from the granola bar wrappers, like “see and pronounce” from Kind bar wrappers, and incorporated them into her poem to show how these wrappers can produce a lot of garbage and how society tries to ignore this problem.

In her discussion on editing, Staples talked about “creating a consciousness.” When the BP oil spill happened, Staples, who had grown up in northwestern Florida on the Gulf Coast, knew she wanted to write about the destruction that had occurred in this area she cares so much about.

She also expressed how she admired the movement Poets Against the War, a group of poets who wrote about their opposition to the war in Iraq, but how she wanted to be “for” instead of “against” something. Thus her project Poets for Living Waters, an online forum for people to post their poems about the disaster and to advocate for clean waterways, was born.

While speaking of becoming an editor, Staples explained how one of her grad school professors started a literary magazine that became quite successful and how she would later edit a literary journal of her own.

“I was very skeptical. I just didn’t realize that that’s what you did, you just go, ‘You know what, I’m an editor!,’” Staples exclaimed.

Staples’ presentation was well-received by an audience of students and UConn Creative Writing Program members.

Sixth-semester political science and environmental studies double major Marysia Borucinska-Begg enjoyed the reading.

“I think Heidi is really cool and it’s good for young people to hear her because a lot of what she was talking about… certainly has relevance to us,” Borucinska-Begg said. “I think our generation’s going to be more environmentally aware.”


Stephanie Santillo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.