Writers Keep Vigil at Imperiled Great Salt Lake Through 2022 Legislative Session

When the life of someone you love is at stake, you stay with them.

Great Salt Lake's life, not separate from our own, is in jeopardy. Her fate, not separate from our own, could be largely determined during this session of the Utah State legislature. As writers, we feel called to be with Great Salt Lake for the duration of the session. Poetry, above all else, is a call to pay attention.

Depleted by diversions for development and years-long droughts, the water level of Great Salt Lake is at a historic low.

For thousands of years the inland sea that is our capitol city’s namesake has been the massive heart of a hemispherically essential ecosystem, home to billions of brine shrimp and an irreplaceable refuge for millions of migratory birds every year. Over consumption of water has led to the fact that Great Salt Lake’s generous presence is careening toward extinction.

As the shoreline recedes, microbialites, “living rocks” which constitute the very platform of all life in the region are being desiccated at an astounding rate. From many places on the receding shoreline, you can look out over massive bone yards of our recently vibrant saline reefs. Their collapse puts every creature in the food chain at risk.

Nearly two centuries of pollutants sent downstream from cities and industry have settled under the shallow body of salt water in the terminal lakebed. Scientists are now warning us that without intervention the exposed shoreline is on track to become one of the largest dust emission sources on the continent, laden with arsenic, mercury, and other toxic contaminants.

We must take action now to save and restore our Great Salt Lake.

At this critical moment, we implore our representatives and fellow citizens to be responsible stewards in showing up for Great Salt Lake and the Great Basin bioregion. Vigil keepers will be in residence winter camping on Antelope Island from January 17th - March 5th, lead by Nan Seymour, local poet and founder of River Writing. They will be joined by scientist-in-residence, Jaimi Butler of Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster from January 29th - February 6th.

Vigil keepers are inviting anyone who cares about Great Salt Lake to contribute details to irreplaceable: a collective praise poem in the making.

Destined to become 1700+ lines long to reflect the minimum size (in square miles) that would constitute a robustly healthy lake, irreplaceable is a call for restoration. The poem will be read in community on Antelope Island February 19th from 3-5pm and excerpts will be published in the Summer of 2022 by Toad Hall Editions.

Great Salt Lake’s future is up to us, we hope you will join us in this work in any way you can. Here’s how:

  • Flood the Utah State legislature and Governor's office with love for the lake. Reach out to your representatives directly to let them know why Great Salt Lake matters to you.

  • Contribute lines to irreplaceable. Have a memory of being at Great Salt Lake? A specific detail, something and/or someone you would miss? Write your thoughts in the comments just below the poem. We look forward to reading your submission! We are accepting contributions to the poem until the end of the vigil in March 5th.
  • Participate in the vigil by joining us in person at Antelope Island State Park for one of our writing workshops, a silent sunset, and a community reading of irreplaceable on Feb. 19th. Scroll down for details on each event!

  • Spend some time with Great Salt Lake this season! Bring a friend. Walk the shoreline. Watch the sunset in awe. Get to know some of our bird neighbors who depend on this ecosystem for their life-sustaining migrations.

  • Help us get the word out! Ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and loved ones if they know about the peril that Great Salt Lake is in. Share resources and invite them to get involved.


Great Salt Lake Vigil Calendar

FRI 3/4 Drum Circle 4pm @ Antelope Island Visitor's Center outdoor Amphitheater.

Enjoy drumming in praise of the lake with Drum Utah. Free with registration, located here on our events page. 

FRI 3/4 Final Silent Sunset of Vigil 5:30pm @ Antelope Island Visitor's Center outdoor Amphitheater.

All are welcome to join us in watching the sunset over the lake together in silence.

SAT 3/5 Last day to contribute details or lines to irreplaceable and the final day of our vigil.

This program is part of Think Water Utah, a statewide collaboration and conversation on the critical topic of water presented by Utah Humanities and its partners. 




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