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.
FOUR POEMS FOR TREES
Across this formal pleasure,
horizon contours mountain range:
sawmill, birdsong, lodgepole. Spilled
into my voice. Declarations of heartfelt territory
lost among these splintered branches.
Frank O’Hara’s subway,
and his blade of grass.
Transplanting monkey puzzle. Prolonged,
a coastline errant. Ponderosa. Sechelt, breeze.
This sentence of foliage
reflects our complexities: such clear
and exposed. Abstraction, stripped excess
of tree-stubble. What season
of nouns. Audre Lorde: There is
no separate survival.
Where my limbs meet yours, a poem
as a brick.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019) and Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), with a further poetry title, the book of smaller, forthcoming from University of Calgary Press. An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics (periodicityjournal.blogspot.com) and Touch the Donkey (touchthedonkey.blogspot.com). He is editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. In spring 2020, he won ‘best pandemic beard’ from Coach House Books via Twitter, of which he is extremely proud (and mentions constantly). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com
THIS TITLE DOES WORK
inspiration is like being fucked
by the Gods and if that’s so
then I suppose
it makes sense
that you’d try to decant
what they’ve filled you with,
to bottle its
the sediment settles.
Ceded ground I guess
but what about getting
free? Form feels like
useful, but to whom?
formed— a complex
structure— a vessel
to keep things in,
worlds which want to be
let out. Birds
can be observed in order
to be observed
to be caged
to be kept or consumed.
the point ceases to be
witnessing the wild,
turns toward capture,
moves our attention
away from subject
to frame— how it was
gilded, by whom
it was hung,
what the work is
worth— at which
point the bird’s flown,
the coop empty,
a wheel untrue, thrown off
Apollo’s chariot— dawn’s horses
on fire, now flaming
out towards dusk.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John 1:1 KJV
everything is narrative
nature is a myth.
the ancients knew that
humans were last to the party
and quick to call the cops
when things felt out of hand
(what’s it like to be
bounced from the club
by a flaming sword a
pair of angels?)
who’s to say
that the flip wasn’t switched
I mean the swish wasn’t phished
I mean the fish wasn’t dished
I mean the witch wasn’t hitched
I mean the switch
this morning when I woke up
the fog-laden dawn carried on
till midday. I walked the dog
and wrote this poem on my phone
listening to Ethiopiques on my phone
drinking a blend of Kenyan coffee
paid for with my phone
which is powered by cobalt
mined by Congolese children
and this is how poetry has everything
to do with the deep
violence of colonialism
is complicit innit?
as I was saying
who’s to say
that all of this
isn’t due to a toggle tripped
by a demi-god— a light
being, libidinous for pain,
or just bored?
Caleb Nichols (he/they) is a queer writer from California, occupying Tilhini, the Place of the Full Moon, the unceded territory of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini tribe. His poetry has been featured in Hoax, Redivider, perhappened mag, DEAR Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. His poem “Ken” won an Academy of American Poets University Prize, and their chapbook “Teems///\\\Recedes” is forthcoming from Kelp Books. He tweets @seanickels.
ah, sure when
I / it
The ill litter it
and garb age.
I utter a light
the road, on
the road and in
to ash, rash,
Penn Kemp. Published online.
Water abounds here, with this river
five times normal width for winter,
flooding roads and parks. The swell
carries whole trees along stampeding
currents. Yellow willows drop fifty-year
-old boughs in high winds. Standing
waves cover our usual walking path.
Climate change is certainly upon us,
from eleven below to eleven above in
hours, sinking back below freezing.
Green begins to bury the remnants
of flood, the wall of last fall’s leaves
packed level against the link fence.
Weird how all reverts, reverberates in
spring clarity as old detritus is dredged.
Penn Kemp has participated in Canadian cultural life for over 50 years, writing, editing, and publishing poetry and plays. She has published 30 books of poetry, prose and drama and 10 CDs of spoken word/Sound Opera. Penn is the League of Canadian Poets’ 40th Life Member and Spoken Word Artist (2015). Penn’s latest collection, A Near Memoir: new poems (Beliveau Books), launched on Earth Day. Her lively web presence includes Wordpress, Weebly, Facebook, and SoundCloud.
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