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.
THE END OF THE WORLD WAS ANTI-CLIMATIC
Bees waxed apocalyptic
Change came in drones
Cryptocurrency mining hurled the earth’s temp
over its two degrees stronghold
The permafrost thawed Iced Capps capsized
Ancient seeds sprouted primordial strains of disease
We were plagued by ennui
Gave thanks our daily laundry
to the teens practicing necromancy
We battened the escape hatch
Lowered false flags to half mast
Missed the last lifeboats
Setting sail off lost coasts
Cassidy McFadzean's new book is Drolleries (M&S 2019).
ARTWORK BY JESSICA JOY HIEMSTRA
POEMS BY KATHRYN MOCKLER
Part of a series of cathartic reactions to Kathryn Mockler's #thisisntaconversation poems: searing, pithy, moving and funny snippets of writing that put a finger on our collective nerve around climate crisis. Kathryn and I decided that we wanted to donate 100% of the proceeds from these prints to Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge, a registered charity based in Georgina, Ontario. Licensed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Canadian Wildlife Services, SOH serves the GTA and areas throughout the South Central Ontario corridor. Their mandate: to nurture and rehabilitate injured and orphaned native wildlife with the goal of releasing healthy animals back into their natural habitats.
Prints are available for purchase from this series, and 100% of the proceeds go to Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge.
Jessica Joy Hiemstra likes what Paul Klee once said about art – that one eye sees, the other feels. Jessica works in a variety of mediums on many kinds of surfaces - from watercolour and thread on paper to acrylic on acetate to plastic bags sewn into canvas. Jessica’s also a poet and designer. One of the things people often ask Jessica is “what’s the difference between all the things you do?” Jessica doesn’t distinguish much between her mediums. She just chooses the best medium for exploring whichever question, concern or exaltation is most pressing to her in the moment - from delight in the body to sorrow and anger at how poorly we care for our world and each other. Sometimes she uses words, sometimes pencil, sometimes paint. A selection of Jessica’s work is available as limited, signed prints in Jessica’s online shop.
Kathryn Mockler is the author of four books of poetry and six short films. She is the Editor of Watch Your Head, Canada Editor of Joyland Magazine, Publisher of The Rusty Toque from 2011-2017, and she teaches creative writing at Western University. She has a poetry chapbook written in collaboration with Gary Barwin forthcoming from Knife | Fork | Book (2020) and her debut collection of stories forthcoming from Book*hug (2121). She is working on a TV series pilot called Yardbird.
PRAYER FOR HOMESICKNESS
We brought tetrapacks
of scents so our children
would know the smell
of summer rain
on earth, video to show them
what life looked like before
and after the heat boiled
the rivers and soil was never
truly damp. In gravity
just loose enough to trip us,
our children lost their parents’
hooked-necked gait, their fixed
hip-flexors, their fixation
on shielding themselves
from the sun. They grew
leggy and light-kneed in this light
world, grew out of their
hand-me-down flight-suits. In their new
home, where there is no
way back, we wanted them
to know what it means to come
from and to a place.
WE SPREAD OUR MILITARY MISSION
in a thin serum of science, sent
our soldiers into the desert
with dictionaries, our exobiologists
armoured in exoskeletons. In movies,
first contact is almost always
a surprise: the alien
among us, unveiled by inhuman
behaviour; the ship shimmering
into rush hour. Ours had the formality
of a late-collapse climate
summit: everyone avowing commitment
to shared cause and collective
consternation, the real debate
ducked into side rooms and under-
mined by ceremony. All the safety
protocol of first dates or hiking
in bear country: begin
in daylight, in public, pull rank
on the audience of predators pulling
their tongues out in hunger.
Nisa Malli is a writer and researcher, born in Winnipeg and currently living in Toronto. She holds a BFA in Writing from the University of Victoria and has completed residencies at the Banff Centre and Artscape Gibraltar Point. Her first chapbook, Remitting, was published by Baseline Press in 2019.
GHAZAL NO. 7
for Rita Wong
The caterpillar mistook my palm marks for a leaf,
where the folded gorge had been.
I run a finger along the topography
of your maps, your poems sketched out on real land.
Each day, I walk down a deserted railway
to the next shore. Eat coconut buns by the water.
Stand in a different spot every time the sea ends,
and the land begins. You’ll go to places.
All my friends, new to the West Coast:
the first thing they do is land, then go to the water.
1. Sandcastle Bucket
This fable I grew up hearing that told of a time when the sea
swept to shore all of its fishes. From the blue-fin tuna off Scarborough
to the mackerels migrating off coast and what’s left of wild sturgeon
near Brescia, northern Italy. Where sinkholes had formed, where they
were met with obstructions, and where the tide had begun to retreat
the fish cannot get back. Along one shore, a child came
with a sandcastle bucket, grabbed the fish by the handfuls and carried
them back where they were released in to the waters.
This time, a bystander watched. They asked the child, Why bother?
There is so many of them. To this, the child replied,
At least I’m doing something. Hurry. The next time the sea turns again,
there will be no more fish left to pick up.
A plastic bag pirouettes on the road. Watch how it heaves
and falls in the air, clear as diatoms, like jellyfish in the water
formation driven by the motor of vehicles pumping 250 mph, the wind
blowing east and no one picks it up. 25 plastic cups, a nylon sack
and two flip flops are not enough for conservation researchers
to determine the cause of death, the sperm whale was too well decayed.
A carcass washed ashore Southeast Sulawesi provincial park: a signal,
as villagers read. An innuendo seemingly to invite the words, come,
butcher me. So they do.
60 million cigarette butts currently clogging our oceans but we don’t
think of the watershed as a massive ashtray. More than plastic water
bottles, more than straws, dislodged caps and unlike plastic, filters
can’t be picked up. What’s biodegradable disintegrate, what’s
disintegrated carries into rivers by rain, arsenic, nicotine, lead,
into oceans by waves. Our ecosystem into waterways, making a return
back to our bodies.
4. Spawning Grounds
A female salmon by intuition returns to her pre-natal stream carrying
the weight of up to 3,000 eggs. This, she will climb to deposit
in the hollows of gravel and sediment above falls, packed between
fresh-water river beds but to be met along the way by the dam
on Muskrat Falls off Labrador, the Keeyask dam on the Nelson River,
93 square kilometres of hydro across boreal lands, snow forests liquefied
where a common spawning ground resides for the wild fish being met
with the Site C Dam though BC— 128 kilometres of river flooded,
the Peace River a reservoir, an Indigenous burial ground and home
to 100 endangered species. On the south, 76 killer whales left on the brink
of extinction. We erect hydro dams and rear fish in hatcheries away
from their natural habitat, bring wildlife back into nature, nature back
into industrialization: this is what we call rewilding. The bare necessities
of hatcheries strengthened through genetic engineering, forced
interbreeding, but fish that rely on muscle memory year after year are the
ones we see failing to return.
* "Spawning Grounds" was previously published in CV2 and Geez Magazine. Parts 1, 2, and 3 were published in CV2, and part 4 appeared in Geez Magazine.
Isabella Wang’s debut poetry chapbook is On Forgetting a Language (Baseline Press 2019). At 19, she has been shortlisted twice for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest, and she holds a Pushcart Prize nomination for poetry. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over twenty literary journals including CV2, Minola Review, and carte blanche. Her work is forthcoming in three anthologies this year, including What You Need to Know Anthology (The Hawkins Project, co-founded by Dave Eggers), andThey Rise Like A Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets (Blue Oak Press 2020). She is working as an assistant editor at Room magazine, a Research Assistant for SpokenWeb, and pursuing a double major in English and World Literature at SFU.
So, the rains return
and your kind cries
though the downpour
is well established
The heavens turn ominous,
with a prescience
like the sea,
minor continental dominance
by the wind's
the inherent consequence
of a delivery
from a post-modern Prometheus
You manufacture ignorance &
and tell us:
we won’t tolerate defiance.
This atmosphere is
a shared inheritance
and it will drown us,
regardless of identifiers,
while you ramble
a vain, competitive excuse,
tittle on TV
Your prodigious memory
fails the burden of proof;
it’s a bogus note
in the deluge of this
your sycophancy a song
made for silicon,
but such an apparatus fails in resilience
when the floods last
Todd Westcott is a single node in the ganglia of fourth dimensional consciousness. He does what he can to live sensibly with those who came before and those who will come after on Turtle Island. He’s published constantly on facebook. He lives and works in a fury.
We have been here before
where Duracell bodies
of two beached whales melt
into the wefted tongues
of the sea. Into the rocks
glommed and knobbed with night
struck out by the daily occasion;
the sun announcing its spines.
Some fish hurl themselves into the open
jaw of air. Breathless
and meshed into what steals them
from their gills.
The water holds both
light and grit in the body that is
the vestigial shore, the smooth current.
Originally published in Forget Magazine.
Shazia Hafiz Ramji is the author of Port of Being (Invisible Publishing), a finalist for the 2019 City of Vancouver Book Award, 2019 BC Book Prizes (Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize), and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. It was named by CBC as a best Canadian poetry book of 2018 and received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Shazia's writing is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and has recently appeared in Poetry Northwest, Music & Literature, Best Canadian Poetry 2018 and THIS magazine. She is a columnist for Open Book and is currently at work on a novel.
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
Film & Video
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