A warning, a movement, a collection borne of protest.
In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.
Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.
This is a call to climate-justice action.
This anthology is not to be missed. The pandemic may have defined our year, but the climate crisis defines our time in geological history. See how this roster of talented writers and artists advance the conversation, put the crisis in context and call for climate justice.
GAPING AT THE GROUND WITH THE WINDOW OPEN
we are driving up the side of a mountain
when we run into a lone black cow. she stands
with her knees jutting out of her flesh,
black hide strained bursting, wild stitch holding
together cloudy blood and burnt milk.
you park the car, cutting the ignition, tumbling
out. the air is black exhaust wisping away,
feels dry and flat, cool against the raw wet of
your underarms. the cow lowers its head.
and this is the land of the future, here, the
scraped dry red of the earth, tufts of grass
shuddering in the wind. we walk past metal birds
dipping low into the earth, drawing out oil
thicker than blood, black as anything. watch
the clouds yellowing against the sky,
dimming where they meet smoke, joining
hands only to unjoin them. watch
the sun split itself open like a red, red
plum, sharp against the thickening sky. watch
bugs claw their way out of the cracks in the
dirt, the way they swarm the nearest sweetest thing.
making our way back to the highway
we stop by the side of a small stream and plunge
our hands into it, steal plums from a nearby tree
and sink our teeth into them. juice bleeds down
your chin, and we wash the red off our hands
and watch it pool at the end of the water,
the red earth clouding into black exhaust,
then wisping away. the cow lowers its head.
Jessica Le is currently an undergrad business student at Western University. Her poetry has been published in Western University's Symposium Anthology, CSC's Alt Mag, and is forthcoming in 愈, healing Magazine. She lives in Ottawa.
Plasticpoems, 2:28 minutes
Written by Fiona Tinwei Lam
Animation by Nhat Truong
Sound Design byTinjun Niu:
This short animated video depicts two concrete/visual poems by poet Fiona Tinwei Lam from her collection of poems Odes & Laments (Caitlin Press, 2019) about marine plastic pollution
Plasticnic, 1:13 minutes
Written/Narrated by Fiona Tinwei Lam
Animation by Tisha Deb Pillai
Sound Design byTinjun Niu:
A humorous animated video poem about plastic pollution that shows how we destroy nature while seeking to enjoy ourselves in the great outdoors.
The video poem is based on a shaped poem in Odes & Laments (Caitlin Press, 2019)
Note: all words come from letters in “plastic” with no doubling. Each shift occurs with the addition or removal of a single letter and/or a reordering of the letters.
"Quench" originally published in Odes & Laments, (Caitlin Press, 2019).
Fiona Tinwei Lam’s third collection of poetry Odes & Laments celebrates the overlooked wonder and beauty in the everyday, while lamenting harm to our ecosystems. She has also authored a children’s book, edited The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems on Facing Cancer, and co-edited Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups & Downs of Marriage with Jane Silcott. Lam won The New Quarterly’s Nick Blatchford Prize and was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her work appears in more than thirty-five anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English (both 2010 and 2020) and Forcefield: 77 Women Poets of BC. Her award-winning poetry videos have screened at festivals locally and internationally. She teaches at Simon Fraser University’s Continuing Studies. fionalam.net @FTinweiL
MINING THE MOON (A DÉCOUPÉ POEM)*
a fine gray powder
meet the Moon’s surface
covering lunar regolith
probes discover Helium-3:
a source of energy
trapped in Moon
equivalent value of a metric ton
harness it in reactors
harness it in
dust and heat
700 degrees centigrade
to manage large quantities
for this main reason: dollars
no one sent in proposals
to the Moon
but "cleaner than fossil fuels."
inhale the gas
of the century!
and recovering astronauts
roving robotic miner
who walked the surface
who meet our planet’s needs
makes mining lunar program
INTERLUNE a go,
“probably the only way”
says the Director of the University of
Fusion Technology Program
59 million dollar lunar orbiter
that kind of
needs fusion technology.
putting tens of millions of dollars
into bags full of regolith
during solar winds,
supply energy of a city of ten million
for a year
a shift in dependence
from oil to dust
within our limits
push the lunar mining concept
push the ocean through wind
push us through rare reason.
make their way
1,997 miners are close to breaking;
take the concept back
to Earth because
“they won't go back to the moon”
“going to go back to the moon”
“piggyback on —“
to the moon” “so far!”
“space agency barriers”
“don't see any others
a variant of this plan
in this playful time,
balls of gas, may not be
right, 1,997 miners
close to breaking.
“won’t go back.”
the miner collects $145, the Program
collects $59 million
this kind of gas, safer?
1,997 astronauts brought back
building up, would pick up
it's a possibility
breaking the Ocean
so now; project another way
to repel the breaking,
if we sit on our hands
by the factor of 3,
we blast through Luna
can’t go back
a depth of choice.
in fact, main reason
seems to be generated
miners shift the Moon’s surface.
that’s enough to lure
we could float
on facts, repel reactions
in enough crude,
found a clean source overall
helium-3 captured interest
stimulus, captured thousands --
but the planet’s needs
off the table.
the breaking continues
years go on…
billions of humans
without a Moon
* “Moon Dust: The gray powder may hold a source of clean fuel.” By Dave Cravotta. Final Frontier, November/December Issue, 1996, pg 40.
Whitney French is a storyteller and a multi-disciplinary artist. She is the editor of Black Writers Matter, a critically acclaimed anthology published by the University of Regina Press in 2019. Additionally, Whitney French is also the creator of the nomadic workshop series Writing While Black. The work featured is an excerpt of her forthcoming science-fiction verse novel. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
YERSINIA PESTIS IN ALBERTA
During the bubonic plague, Thieves’ Oil (a blend
of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary)
was placed on hands, ears, temples, feet, and inside of
beak-like masks to avoid catching the plague.
It will be manageable at first.
a brief tremor in the arms and legs,
squirrels will drop from electrical wires
and robins will lose their voice.
The pain will be no brighter
than a flickering candle
A man on a podium
will tell you not to worry.
The men behind will nod.
They will post signs
telling you to exercise
You will sink your body
You can ignore the
darkness in the sides
of your ribcage. You cannot
avoid the shadows on
It will get better
before it gets worse.
To contain the infection,
gathering in groups
will be prohibited.
The tremors will return
and they will be violent.
You must always wear
long pants to keep
the insects from your ankles.
If you find dead birds,
leave them be.
Avoid physical contact--
it can spread
through saliva of the infected.
Wrap black thread around fingertips
to keep the sickness contained:
Amy LeBlanc is an MA student in English Literature and creative writing at the University of Calgary and Managing Editor at filling Station magazine. Amy's debut poetry collection, I know something you don’t know, was published with Gordon Hill Press in March 2020. Her novella "Unlocking" will be published by the UCalgary Press in their Brave and Brilliant Series in 2021. Her work has appeared in Room, PRISM International, and the Literary Review of Canada among others. She is a recipient of the 2020 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award.
I WAKE WHEN THE BIRDS TELL ME THEY WANT TO DREAM
a form gathers sweat on every surface
skin touch feathers touch skin
pull wings apart
leave pile of quills
outside bedroom window
hot air blows around
it is springtime
animals come out
for lucidity through
of promised tea
aftermath of sex lies
in warm laundry piles
bird tells me not to worry
it sings a melody in my ear
just before i wake
i can’t help but listen
the bird is the first
to believe me when i say
i spun clouds into silkworms the night before
every house was a beacon lit up
of candlelight in smokescreened
can’t handle early dawn rays
i match the bird’s tune
with a wooden flute
it tells me please stop
are not mine to play
Manahil Bandukwala is a writer and visual artist. Her most recent project, Reth aur Reghistan, is a collaboration with her sister, Nimra, in which they research folklore from Pakistan and interpret it through poetry and sculpture. See more about the project at sculpturalstorytelling.com. She is the author of two chapbooks, Paper Doll (Anstruther Press, 2019) and Pipe Rose (battleaxe press, 2018). She was the 2019 winner of Room magazine's Emerging Writer Award, and was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize.
ONLY THE SUN
Who will notice when this leaf is gone?
It is only a leaf,
tiny, trembling, green; tomorrow’s auburn.
No one will know. Only the bird will know.
Who will notice when this love is gone?
It is only a love,
a ghost thing with no edges or shape.
No one will know. Only I will know.
Who will notice when this song is gone?
It is only a song,
one sound set beside another like a pair of shoes.
No one will know. Only we will know.
Who will notice when the sun is gone?
It is only a sun,
a hole of gold burned in an endless sky.
No one will know. Only the dark will know.
I wake up with a protest sign on my chest
in my own bed, no chanters or marchers near.
I wake up to the sound of the ocean rattling
like paper unfolding, the clear voices of unseen birds.
I wake up in a fast-moving vehicle on a highway--
sun choosing the passenger side, the green blurred
trees an anonymous crowd, a hum of uncertainty.
I wake up to the sound of people arguing. I wake up
already peeing into a toilet; the mirror has aged me.
I wake up in an apartment I used to rent
years ago, though the wallpaper has changed
and I can’t be sure I’m not a ghost. Somehow
the same things propel me forward.
I wake up to the small hole a cigarette makes,
a punctuation mark in someone else’s turmoil.
The sandy snake of smoke climbs the wall.
I wake up on a bus between countries
and for a minute I’ve forgotten my own name,
just a dry mouth and a body, a set of eyes.
I wake up to the blind gray face of a mountain;
though I have never gone mountain climbing
I’m wearing the boots for it. I stretch, look around.
It appears I have all the equipment and it’s a new day.
Emily Schultz will publish her newest novel, Little Threats, in fall 2020 with GP Putnam’s Sons. Her novel, The Blondes, released in Canada with Doubleday, in the U.S. with Picador, in France with Editions Alto and Editions Asphalte. Named a Best Book of 2015 by NPR and Kirkus, it recently became a scripted podcast starring Madeline Zima. Her poems have appeared in
Minola Review, rust + moth, Humber Literary Review, and Taddle Creek.
EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE ICEBERG
An iceberg used to mean
like an iceberg
was to have
the surface. To go
on. Now, an iceberg means
impermanence. To melt into
something. To disappear into your
body. To run into an old friend
at the market and be told
you’ve changed. Now, an iceberg
is something you can argue.
Like politics or history. Like
memory. How old were you
when you saw the iceberg?
Your mother says eleven.
You say fourteen. You stood
on the shore in PEI, your hands
and breath both frozen. A mass of ice
bigger than your house, your school.
If only ten percent of an iceberg
floats above the surface, what does
that mean for the other ninety? Back then,
an iceberg meant mystery— a second truth
below the water. Now, both truths
Gabrielle Drolet is a poet and journalist based in London, ON. Her work, which focuses on politics and queer identity, has been published in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Teen Vogue, VICE, and more. She's currently completing her undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing at Western University.
bow to the Passenger Pigeon
genuflect to the Great Cruising Auk
sing praises to the frogs that sing no more
the Rocky Mountain Grasshoppers
the Northern White
the Coral awash
in acidic seas
the Bramble Cay Melomys
first of the mammals
officially wiped out
February 18, 2019
by climate change
while ocean levels rise
in ever burning
through extinction’s heaven
let all their death throes
hymn celestial halls
David White was a participant in Renga: A Collaborative Poem (Brick Books 1980). In 1994, in completion of his Ph.D., he wrote “A Territory Not Yet On The Map:” Relocating Gay Aestheticism in the Age of AIDS. His first solo collection of poems is The Lark Ascending (Pedlar Press, 2017), followed by Local Haunts (Pedlar Press 2019). For many years he taught Theatre History and Writing at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
Check out our latest project: a print anthology published by Coach House Books!
Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
Coach House Books