Watch Your Head
Coach House Books, 2020
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.
Cover design by Ingrid Paulson
...Watch Your Head does not disappoint. It serves as a warning to heed, a reminder to be thought of often, and a well-thought-out piece of art. Throughout the anthology, readers encounter pieces that provoke and insist, demanding attention, consideration, action, and creativity. Essays and stories and images alike bring about questions and statements on Indigenous rights, white privilege, exploitation of land and people, colonial power structures, place, home, language, and imagination.
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.
THE CONSUMPTION THERAPY™ DEMONSTRATION CHAMBER
The Consumption Therapy™ Demonstration Chamber was a performance that occurred during the 2019 Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This performance was framed as a live demonstration of an absurdist therapy that claims to cure an individual of the drive to consume goods at the rate encouraged by our neoliberal, klepto-capitalist society.
The Chamber was a large, inflatable plastic ball, half-filled with plastic recycling that was donated by the art community in St. John’s. Plastic of all varieties was included, creating a visual cacophony of colours, textures, and advertising. During the performance I was inside the ball, in character as “The Hobbyist”, tumbling, rolling, and immersing myself in the plastic detritus, forced to confront and exist within a tiny fraction of the throwaway plastic waste that is generated each day across the world.
This performance was an absurd spectacle of a person yielding to plastic waste: a demonstration of the struggle to remove one’s self from the society that is engaging in the destruction of the planet. It reverses a person’s typical relationship with waste: instead of being rendered invisible with waste management infrastructure, it engulfs the consumer, forcing them to surrender to the evidence of their consumption.
The Consumption Therapy™ Demonstration Chamber, 2019
Arianna Richardson is a sculptor, performance artist, and mother from Treaty Seven territory (Lethbridge, AB). Richardson most often works under the pseudonym, The Hobbyist, employing hobby-craft techniques to work through an investigation of ubiquitous consumption, gendered labour, waste, excess, and spectacle.
Richardson holds a BFA (2013) in Studio Arts from the University of Lethbridge and an MFA (2018) from NSCAD in Halifax, NS. She was awarded the Roloff Beny Photography Scholarship in 2012 and the Alberta Arts Graduate Scholarship in 2016. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and has been featured in the December 2018 issue of Performance Research, “On Generosity” and Volume 8 of Emergency Index: An Annual Document of Performance Practice. Website: www.ariannarichardson.ca
IT WON'T END WITH A BANG,
it won’t end with DEFCON 1,
but with muddied water guzzled down desperate throats
and mothers crying at shallow graves.
with winds whispering away whimpering cities,
and brothers packing mothers and sisters to safety.
it won’t end with the masses.
there will be no riots in the streets,
instead they will run blue
and be made seas gushing into coast.
it won’t end with a hero.
no, the hero will die of pneumonia,
or starve when the livestock have died from dysentery
and mildew has taken the plants.
we won’t be chased.
if we had been, we may have run.
instead, death will crawl at a sickly pace
and close the space between us.
it will end how it all started…
with water rushing shores,
earth cracking open,
and fire razing forests,
to make room for new inhabitants.
but not with a bang.
Ayman Arik Kazi is a Muslim, Bangladeshi-Canadian immigrant, and a student at the University of Western Ontario. That's a lot of identifiers. He founded the Western's first community for spoken word artists and poets, Spoken Word Society. He has written for several small publications like Young Voices and The Reckoner of MGCI. Ayman likes weaving the many aspects of his often conflicting identity into art that offers a scope into his mind.
NONE OF THIS IS A METAPHOR FOR ANYTHING
In the car I traced the power lines with my fingers
and hopped over the poles like little toads
real little jumpers like the ones we collected together
before the marsh was condos
that must’ve been 25 years ago today
it feels longer
we were born under the high watermark
and knew what that meant
how many metaphors do you need to make sense of a dying planet?
at least one more? at least one more
nothing gets to the point I’m trying to make,
there is no such thing as real sacrifice anymore
the difference between fake blood and real blood
is roughly how much we’ll pay for it
Tyler Engström's first book of poetry, Thee Golden Age of the Internet, is forthcoming from Frontenac House in 2021. He was a 2017 finalist for the Writer's Trust RBC Bronwen Wallace Award and his writing has been found in FreeFall Magazine, Freq Magazine, and the poetry anthology Drifting Like a Metaphor: Calgary Poets of Promise. @tylrengstrom
Survivors crawl across
withered black comb, invisible
apocalypse, sisters wandering
lost in the corn fields, seduced
by filaments of silk, the toxic
pollen. Scooping up death--
no distinction between friend
and foe, all obliterated
in service of unblemished
fields, poisoned bees
littering the ground.
The low hum of welcome
washed into air,
torn apart by a breeze.
Sent down streams
like the limbs of Orpheus;
the queen perched on her throne,
wondering who will come to feed her.
Regal head tilting patiently,
big eyes surveying the decay. Where
is her long train, her cloak
of swarming bodies,
tight as tapestry? Gone,
all gone. Her own body
meaningless without them.
“Colony Collapse” has been published in a previous version in Hamilton Arts and Letters and in Under the Gamma Camera (Gaspereau, 2019).
Madeline Bassnett is the author of the poetry collection Under the Gamma Camera (Gaspereau 2019), and two chapbooks, Pilgrimage and Elegies. Her poems have appeared in journals including long con magazine, Prairie Fire, Hamilton Arts and Letters, The New Quarterly, and in the anthology, In Fine Form, 2nd Edition: A Contemporary Look at Canadian Form Poetry. She is currently on the board of Poetry London and teaches in the Department of English and Writing Studies at Western University. She lives in London, Ontario.
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I LAID THE EARTH'S FOUNDATION?
at the heart of garbage
the -away of the throw-away
circling us in:
The desert of the real
a mouse click away
crack turn schism
salt to melt all winters away
where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation?
and I build Arks for when Noah comes back
Khashayar Mohammadi is a queer, Iranian born, Toronto-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Photographer. He is the author of poetry Chapbooks Moe’s Skin by ZED press 2018, Dear Kestrel by knife | fork | book 2019 and Solitude is an Acrobatic Act by above/ground press 2020. His debut poetry collection Me, You, Then Snow is forthcoming with Gordon Hill Press.
VANCOUVER SEAWALL, THIRD BENCH FROM THE WATER
let there be a word for how it feels to stand
waist-deep in your tide let it be queer
as in landfall as in the constellation of sand on
a lover’s elbow or the lie that this land could be
owned or queer as in the way time arranges
the earth into wrinkles the mountain knows
no monument can stand longer than the mountain
already has let there be language for the unceded
shore yielding pieces of itself to the outbound
ocean call it love without ownership call it
the skin between my hands and your sand and
her collarbone unpinned call it queer as in
grace comes from letting go of what was
never ours to keep in the first place
Previously published in haunt, Damaged Goods Press (2018).
Jody Chan is a writer, drummer, organizer, and politicized healer based in Toronto. They are the author of haunt (Damaged Goods Press), all our futures (PANK), and sick, winner of the 2018 St. Lawrence Book Award. They can be found online at https://www.jodychan.com/ and offline in bookstores or dog parks.
When a crow chases
an eagle, she’s no crisis
but confidence. Game.
Only thirty years
left for chinook salmon. How
many for us? Same
river each time you
step in and soak. Hear that long
high note on a passing
car stereo. Prime
a pump with your own water.
Skunk cabbage is strong
enough to wake bears.
The labyrinth pulls grief's
long impacted tooth.
These gigantic trees have birds
I know. And won’t ever.
Tanis MacDonald is the author of six books of poetry and essays, and a co-editor of GUSH: menstrual manifestos for our times. She lives on the Haldimand Tract, on traditional territories of the Attawandaron, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples. Recent work has appeared in Understorey, Minola Review, and Prairie Fire.
It takes guts to be here, right here, in the violence of the 21st century, dealing with the legacy of the violence of the 20th century. It takes guts to feel toxicity splash up against you and to say, I will name it as I will walk into the teeming world that teems a little less every day. It's not easy but it is right in front of us if we look.
AT THE END OF DAYS
“At the End of Days” is a series of photos which documents evidence of a forthcoming apocalypse. In each photo something prized by humans has been thrown away. In some cases, nature intervenes by trying to reclaim its territory, vines covering an old car, rust on metal gears left in The snow, a leaf on an old chair. Lastly, there are sunflowers picked and placed in an LCBO bag, then left in the compost heap. All of these images show a disregard for nature, a prioritizing of humans over nature instead of seeing that humans are part of nature, and our treatment of nature has consequences on the life of the planet and the continued existence of humanity.
Amanda Earl is a Canadian poet, publisher, editor, prose writer, visual poet, occasional doodler who snaps pics of broken glass and dying
flowers. She has a #chairsofOttawa series on Instagram in which she takes photos of chairs that have been thrown away. Her books are “A World of Yes” (DevilHouse, 2015), “Kiki” (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and “Coming Together Presents Amanda Earl” (Coming Together, 2014). Amanda is the managing editor of Bywords.ca and the
fallen angel of AngelHousePress.
LAWSON ROY’S PINION ON SYN-THETIC POLYMERS
Pity the bottom feeders! Lobster might look mighty
but their numbers’ll drop faster than lead cod jigs.
The clams n mussels lap up that nasty plastic crap
drifts cross bottom. Nothin lobster likes more
than a big feed of clams n mussels.
I don’t differ—’d rather clams than lobster
any day of the week. Was just up the Dairy Treat
laid into a fine mess all fried up with French fries.
Tasted the finest kind, if bites were a tad rubbery.
Looked out cross the lot, saw a feathered ruckus
floatin on the garbage barrel’s overflow
—stupid gull, plastic fork stuck bent in its beak
an onion ring ringin its neck.
I would’ve pulled that fork outta there
so ol greedy-guts crazy-head could enjoy its fried treat
but you think that damned bird would sit still?
* * *
A damn sin, the trash the tide heaps on the beach.
Out walkin, you come cross banged-up buoys or bits
mangled traps, trap tags n bands, cartons n tainers
pop cans n enough bottles for every last blasted soul
chunks of Sty-ro-foam, Zip-loc bags, what we call penny whistles.
Birthday balloons lookin like run-over jellyfish. In all colours!
Bait bags, shell casins, their rubber gloves. All colours!
When I was fishin Millie always made me my mitts.
Weren’t nothin syn-theticful—nothin but sheep’s wool.
They’d tighten from dunkin em in the salt ocean each trip.
Waterproofin. Some warm. With the finger in em for firin
the .22 on board in case we run up on any seals.
* * *
You ever seen that bit on the television? They’re out in the boat
and the young fella’s wonderin what to do with his chip bag
or gum wrapper or somethin or other, and the old fella
he says to just toss er overboard. But where does it go, Dad?
Away, son; away. Well, well now. Where the heck’s away to?
Some hazy Atlantic nowhere? That fog’s comin in fast though.
Can feel it fillin my chest, layin on a few extra oil-based coats.
Water molly-cules and an-ti-thetic syn-thetics fillin my cavities
sure as I’m breathin tumbled round, broke-down poly-sty-rene.
Nothin much you buy lasts anymore, credibly quick to break.
Then it’s broke it lasts and lasts and lasts and won’t ever rot!
Oh, you know people—don’t they love that ol beach glass.
Started makin necklaces outta the stuff, like it’s pearls!
That busted glass is a bunch of trash—way I see it, the start
of a terrible habit. Pieces can be pretty, sure—so! No need.
Pretty as a Coke can. Go get yourself wed with a lobster band.
Har-huh-hargh! They tell me it’s all the tobacco I smoked
but I know it’s this fake plastic fog the ocean’s pushin.
Dig up my lungs 50 years from now, you’ll find a pair
of bags fit for carryin your poisoned groceries home in.
Cory Lavender is a white privileged poet of Black Loyalist descent living in Nova Scotia, which is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. His work has appeared in journals such as Riddle Fence, The New Quarterly, and The Dalhousie Review. His chapbook Lawson Roy’s Revelation came out with Gaspereau Press in 2018. A second chapbook, Ballad of Bernie “Bear” Roy, is forthcoming with knife | fork | book.
Today I can not tell you
if the photo will come true.
Workers on ladders in an orchard
holding powder puffs to move the pollen
from one flower to the other flower.
What the bee did for free
without having to be asked
without needing to be told.
Furry body going home in golden dust
taking while giving, the world away.
Kirsty Elliot's poetry book True, by Leaf Press was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert award and long listed for the Re-Lit Awards, so she's kind of a loser. She has a homestead on Lasqueti Island but has moved to town so her kid's can enjoy the traumatizing experience of high school. She is presently an elementary school librarian and secretary.
View on CBC Gem (Closed Captioning Available)
Short, Lyrical, Dramatic Film
Millefiore Clarkes - Director / Emma Fugate - Producer
Solastalgia (/ˌsɒləˈstældʒə/) is a neologism that describes a form of mental or existential distress caused by environmental change.
When the panic over global crises threatens to engulf her, Ava embarks on a vision-quest to put things in perspective.
SOLASTALGIA is a lyrical film that explores the anguish that climate change and a global state of uncertainty can impart upon the human psyche.
Ava, (played by Rebecca Parent) a mother of two young children, is bombarded throughout her day with news of global disasters. Over the airwaves, on the internet, overheard at a grocery store - cataclysmic stories of the effects of climate change steadily erode Ava’s inner peace. She acutely feels the burden of guilt for her entire species. She worries about her children's futures. Her mental health is unwinding as she searches for solace and a new perspective.
This film is a dreamscape set to the formidable poetic verse of Tanya Davis (former poet-laureate of Halifax). It is a poetic gesture to the vast timeline of the earth and humanity's small but significant place within the web. SOLASTALGIA is a traditional drama that utilizes non-traditional, stock and archival sources for some of its imagery. It blends a straight-forward narrative with a surrealistic journey underpinned with a musical score by Philip Glass, Russell Louder and others.
Funded through FilmPEI Film4Ward program.
Millefiore Clarkes is an award-winning filmmaker from Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island. Through her company One Thousand Flowers Productions she produces a variety of media work: short and feature documentaries, music videos, drama, experimental shorts, and video installations. She recently received the DOC Institute’s Vanguard Award for her work as a documentarian. Her most recent work is a short lyrical, dramatic film SOLASTALGIA that explores the theme of climate grief. It won Best Canadian Short at the Silverwave Film Festival.
She has directed three documentaries for The National Film Board of Canada: THE SONG AND THE SORROW, BLUE RODEO - ON THE ROAD, and ISLAND GREEN. THE SONG AND THE SORROW won Best Short Atlantic Documentary at FIN - Atlantic International Film Fest, Best Documentary at Silverwave Film Festival, Best Atlantic Doc at Lunenburg Doc Fest, Best Mid Length Documentary at The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, and was a Top Ten Audience Choice at Available Light Film Festival.
Her films have screened at festivals across Canada and the US and have been broadcast on CBC and Bravo! Her experimental short December in Toronto is featured on Vimeo’s Staff Picks, and her music videos have won a number of awards.
She is passionate about making films that connect us to one another and to nature.
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
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