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.
If water could be a gnawing thing. If, against you,
the knifeglint of a type of ship. If away is where our eyes point
certain bodies go. If policy, if gaze, what blooms. To demand
certain bodies die a little more. To: from where. How to slur them
with a glow other than blood muzzle. If yours, too,
is a language made for prayer. Make what type of bed
to tuck a country in. Heroicize,
in what order: tenderness, of, lack. Allow me the time
you take to dry yourself in ocean. Gnawing
at whose insides. As if a home.
"Dear Phosphorescence," first appears on 18MillionRising.org as part of the #NoMuslimBanEver Micropoem Series.
Hari Alluri (he/him/siya) is the author of The Flayed City (Kaya) and Carving Ashes (CiCAC/Thompson Rivers). A winner of the 2020 Leonard A. Slade, Jr. Poetry Fellowship for Poets of Color and an editor at Locked Horn Press, he has received grants from the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts and fellowships from Las Dos Brujas, Port Townsend, and VONA/Voices writers workshops. His work appears in the Pandemic Solidarity (Pluto) and Poetry In Voice / Les voix de la poésie anthologies, as well as recently in Anomaly, The Capilano Review, Ovenbird, Prism International, The Puritan, and elsewhere.
Thermal camera images by Gary J. Hodges. Thanks to Dr. Stephen Cheung, Phillip Wallace, and Scott Steele for assisting with testing and analysis at the Environmental Ergonomics Laboratory at Brock University.
Adam Dickinson is the author of four books of poetry. His latest book, Anatomic (Coach House Books), involves the results of chemical and microbial testing on his body. His work has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and the Raymond Souster Award. He was also a finalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Poetry Prize and the K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Literature. He teaches Creative Writing at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
EXCERPT FROM OCEAN
The harbour didn’t like being held captive by the shadows
of our buildings. We treated it well but still its dorsal fins
weakened and flopped. The tide was nothing more than
a sleepy scratch of water up over rocks
and then a yawn back down. The balls we threw to it
sank. It stopped slurping, it stopped nibbling.
It hardly growled. Some days it looked like a carpet,
other days, a flooded campsite: disks of paper plates,
lipsticked cigarette butts, the wet embers
of our vacations. What was the fun of these skyscrapers
if the only view we had was a petulant body of water?
We bought fish from the market to feed it. The older women
crocheted the most tender dialogue skimmed from our dreams,
carrying afghans by the armload down to its shore.
In this way, they invented nets and managed to catch
the grit of starlight from previous nights. With the right amount
of sugar and boiled darkness, we soon had vats
of a nectar so potent it bubbled. It wasn’t that we got drunk
but forgetful and became so greedy for more, we over-fished
our dreams for their tenderness. When poverty arrived,
we were down to the bones of our talk. If we rubbed
two sticks together, briefly we’d be nourished by the smell
of their wood.
Our elders insisted the ocean was still there.
That we were born with a seed of it and when we spoke,
its waves pressed against our words for a further shore.
But we had let ourselves become sub-divided and suburban,
buckling our talk into seatbelts, mad always for safety.
When had our schedules become the new mountains?
We were doing our best to ignore how grey our memories
were becoming, how stooped and hard of hearing our laughter was.
The ocean, apparently, was right in front of us and we were dropping
like flies. We bought the dried flowertops of our politicians’
explanations. We tuned our radios to the sunsets and downloaded
whalesong overdubbed with protest songs. Our intent was good
but with airbags. The poets rigged antennas to the antique words
of gratitude with a cayenne of the unexpected but we were tired
of the poets, they were chesterfields or they were curtains.
We wanted pure ocean podcast into our veins but tethered
while we slept. We wanted death to be a stranger we’d never have to
give directions to. We consulted the beekeepers infamous
for not getting stung but they were in a meeting with the poets.
We consulted the gamblers but they wanted to see us only to raise us
ten. Our voices were rarely coming home covered in mud anymore.
Filmmakers had started making films of the ocean
in 3D. Scratch and sniff coastal cards were sold
at lottery booths. Material for dresses was cut with the froth
of tide in mind. We had wanted the ocean to be the new
flavour, the new sound. We’d drive for miles to get a glimpse
of it because, let’s face it, it revitalized the part of us
we kept rooting for, that apple seed of energy that defied
multiple choice career options. The ocean had egged the best part
of us on. And it scared us. We never knew what it was thinking
and spent thousands on specialists who could make predictions.
And the predictions always required hard hats and building permits,
furrowed eyebrows and downward trends. Why is it so hard
to trust something that leaps, disappears and then reappears
spouting more light? When had our hearts become badly behaved
dogs we had to keep the screen door closed to? Have you ever run
along its shore, the pant of it coming closer? And that feeling
that yipped inside of you, the Ginger Rogers of your feet, your ability
to not get caught then, yes, get soaked. Didn’t you feel like it was
part of your pack? When it whistled, whatever it is in you
that defies being named, didn’t that part of you perk up?
And didn’t you let it tousle you to the ground,
let it clean between your ears before it left you?
Wasn’t that all right? That it left you? That we all will?
"forty-nine,""fifty-five," and "fifty-six" published in Ocean (Gaspereau, 2013)
Sue Goyette lives in K'jipuktuk (Halifax), the unceded and unsurrendered land of the Mi’kmaq peoples. She has published six books of poems and a novel. Her latest collection is Penelope (Gaspereau Press, 2017). She has been nominated for the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Award and has won several awards including the 2015 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for her collection, Ocean. Sue teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Dalhousie University.
conversations with mom
I think I am scared to have children.
what if I forget the kind of world we are living in?
what if I try to write and all that comes out is
a siren, a fire, some hot, angry thing, what if I am
a siren and a fire and a hot, angry thing?
the warning signs are not for you. they are
for you. ignore them anyway.
what if I forget how to hold you?
what if the world will not hold us and we are falling
and the fire alarm is ringing and I am the fire--
what if I leave and they think I am never coming back?
what if I don’t want to come back?
"conversations with mom" originally published in Room Magazine, Issue 42.4, 2020
Natalie Lim is a Chinese-Canadian writer based in Vancouver, B.C. and the winner of the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize, with work published in Room Magazine, Honey & Lime Lit, PRISM international and more. She is an unashamed nerd and a believer in good bones, and you can find her on Twitter @nataliemlim.
I WONDER IF I WILL EVER MANAGE TO WRITE A GOOD POEM ABOUT HEAT DEATH
This trajectory is all on us for inability
to fact check or read critically.
The sparring kangaroos were dancing
with rain-joy, we said.
That’s fighting, said the scientist,
old photo. Those kangaroos are ash by now.
Pictures of koalas in renal failure
foregoing their fear of us
to lap water from the road were deemed
“cute.” No, no, said the scientist, it’s not cute.
That creature is dying.
We’d moved on. Wombats shepherd
other critters into their burrows! Stewards of the underbush!
Not quite right, said the scientist, wombat burrows are enormous.
Most likely the wombat was hiding in another chamber.
Too busy anthropomorphizing, we’d already created a hashtag.
#WombatEmpathy will save us!
I asked ryan what comes next,
and he said,
either the complete transformation
of existing relationships
or the heat death of the
planet. One of those.
My heart’s on relationships, and kangaroos, and scientists.
No time for settler logic.
No atheists in burrows, friend.
No one is coming to save us.
I ❤️ ALBERTA’S ENERGY
take the elevator to my second-floor
apartment bust out the biodiesel
firmware use medical grade plastic
bottles for my saline nasal
rinse gotta keep those
mucus membranes clean for u
and the dust bowl, babe, gotta
run that old car all up and down
this city’s sprawl I try to keep warm
through frigid prairie winters feel appropriate
guilt at the plastic produce bags I bring home
from the grocery store / forget the mesh ones
every time / I’ve gone full enemy of the state assault vehicle
applied to be the next poet-in-residence for carbon capture
(mass species death, but make it fashion)
everything you see is development
gently falling leaves in the inner city: development
Enoch Sales heritage home fire: development
empty condo tower on empty condo tower:
the firing of 5,000 Albertan nurses in the year
2019 / 9 dead from fires in South Wales since Monday
now 24, meanwhile
we’re bursting out the seams over here:
Montana, Drake, East Village, Tuscany
new history razed for imported ideas
another thundering swing
from settler colonialism’s long neoliberal tail
clearing a path for the rule of the patch
by the patch for the patch
for the capitalist overlord bosses of our demise,
for the dinosaurs who never left us
Nikki Reimer (she/her) is a carbon-based life form of Ukrainian and Russian Mennonite descent who lives on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta. She may or may not be undead. She writes poetry, essays and criticism, yells on the internet, and makes digital art. Published books are My Heart is a Rose Manhattan, DOWNVERSE and [sic].
The boardwalks scuttled like diving reef schooners –
a walkable Galilee if anyone dared, but each jogger rears
to higher ground. I’ve lost my son a half-second here
or there before I pulled him up, his lips like planks,
in tubs and pools and once a mirror lake – the obsidian
endless kind that really ends abruptly in roots and husks
and carcasses and muck. This country’s full of them.
All summer we swim bellies up, avoid anoxic thoughts.
The joggers, any other day, linger at the point
just long enough to catch their breath and contemplate
an app, perhaps the sun. Yes, there it is, afloat. My son,
I need to know what you thought of water when it first,
again, surrounded you. Your eyes were wide. You didn’t
make a sound. Not one thing was born or died.
THE SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE OF THIS WORLD
The successful people of this world
are always busy. They work all day
then come home and need to do something
so they cook the dinner, wash the car, cut the grass.
It's because of the successful people
that we have water restrictions:
this side of the street on even days,
that side on odd.
They like that kind of thing: schedules,
they are usually big fans of schedules,
and when they have free time in theirs
they spend it composing new schedules.
When they take medication
they always put it in one of those plastic things
that divides the pills up by days.
the successful people of this world
are busy and efficient, their actions
are their own rewards, and a green lawn
during a heat wave is their poem.
"The Successful People of the World" previously appeared in The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant Books, 2011).
Rob Taylor is the author of three poetry collections, including The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016), which was a finalist for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Rob is also the editor of What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation (Nightwood Editions, 2018) and guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry 2019 (Biblioasis, 2019). His fourth collection, Strangers, will be published by Biblioasis in Spring 2021.
it is how our footsteps alter the flurries
how we move through the breeze
in the boughs of our hope.
when time stops in the sideways glance
you will find me in the missed heartbeat
see me in the many moons of your longing
in the place where words fail us
with a sharp astute parlance and
war is upon us and the sun sets black
under the yoke of
a darkening century
we are going nowhere fast.
in storms and tornados
of prognosis and forecasts
over a horizon of planted crosses
the weather turns passive aggressive on us.
and there is no way we can say such things
about the weather
as we forget how to move through the elements
that we are.
it’s up to you and I what we’ll do
in this tortured oil-spilled winter.
where even in sleep
loneliness alters us re-interprets us
how I even begin to smile at people
in my dreams.
how a little bit of light brings nuance to the shutter
in the prolonged exposure photography of grief
where the struggling light shreds
the clouds of our sorrow
into the rags of tomorrow
you will also find me here waiting
This poem was inspired by the poem Angst by Alexander Block (1880-1921) and it was published in Ping Pong: An Art and Literary Journal of the Henry Miller Memorial Library (Big Sur, California, 2014).
Daniela Elza lived on three continents before immigrating to Canada in 1999. Her poetry collections are the weight of dew (2012), the book of It (2011), milk tooth bane bone (2013), and the broken boat (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2020). slow erosions (a chapbook written in collaboration with poet Arlene Ang) is coming out with Collusion Books (2020). Daniela also has essays forthcoming in The Queen’s Quarterly and Riddle Fence.
YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO LET THEM BE WILD
That’s what Steve said
about the mustangs
up on Pryor Mountain –
no sugar cubes, no carrots
no coaxing, stroking, gentling
no ropes, no tires, no pick up trucks
no dust storm swing low choppers
no Judas horse
no gathering, no holding pens
no PZP, no freeze brand
no breaking in, no putting down
no auction block, no slaughterhouse
no flank strap, no fast track
no stockyard, no consignment
no snaffles, bridles, saddles, spurs
no blankets, shoes or blinders
no rodeo, no latigo, no cincha
no clipping, combing, currying
no conchos, braids or bells
no ranches, no reata
no binder twine for breech births
no ligatures, no doctoring
of tears & rends & bites
no vaccination, no inoculation
just bales & bales
seep water, galleta grass
the animal vegetable mineral
exacting, punishing, available
Kathleen McCracken is the author of eight collections of poetry including Blue Light, Bay and College (Penumbra Press, 1991), which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Poetry. A bilingual English/Portuguese edition of her poetry entitled Double Self Portrait with Mirror: New and Selected Poems, and featuring a preface by Medbh McGuckian, was published by the Brazilian press Editora Ex Machina in 2016. She is the recipient of several distinguished poetry prizes in Canada and Ireland, and has held Ontario Arts Council, Poetry Ireland and Northern Ireland Arts Council awards. Kathleen is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature at Ulster University, Northern Ireland.
MANY NIGHTS AGO
The flowers outside my window do not cry anymore.
When the war first began, and the weeds took over, they danced about;
stretching their roots—perhaps to see how long they could endure it.
That and the shrieking kept me up at night,
but that was many nights ago.
Now they fall in line—silently, with heads hung—single file.
The only sound I hear, is the “tap, tap, tap” on my windowpane.
"Many Nights Ago" first appeared in Kelvin High School’s literary anthology, Stream (2018).
Jessie Taylor is an avid over-thinker. She loves red lipstick, latkes and fresh cherries in July. She is studying at the University of Manitoba.
SELECTIONS FROM THIS REAL
assuming that nothing is neither created nor destroyed; that there is nothing new under the sun; that everything is ‘one,’ as Parmenides said; that the consistency we feel as ‘real,’ is, and the inconsistency that rises up as interference interruption eruption disruption of our days is not not consistency but simply the insignificant pebble flipped up by the tire from the side of the road as we swerve against the torrent;
that an individual is born into this consistency, which is the continuum of time; that time must have started somewhere; that we are edited product of this time and closed off from genesis, dulled and sagging as we are, brittle and horny, spinning and passive and overcome by all manner of natural disasters and essentially as dumb as the pebble, as mother earth wounded by ice age, mitochondria and hypochondria, polar thaws, geological faults and a sunken Atlantis;
assuming all that, I would propose that:
in these end of days, the only thing with perspective is this angel, whose wings are tangled in it, scorched by it, thrown from it, advancing backwards into our future as she does, so that she can’t warn us; until it’s too late.
as if disaster were inevitable. measure it.
assuming that it was a dark and stormy night when the world began; that it was the storm of chaos out of which mankind was formed, and assuming that
the weather wraps us in its warmth, wet blankets of summer storms; high winds and thunder eclipsing night, exciting us in their grandeur so that we take cover on the porch, or are forced inside with expletives about eaves troughs or weeping tiles, we may assume also that
there is weather that is inside us, seasonal disorders in the unstable system of corpus. the tormented tidal waves of loving badly. Oh my. the manic storms of depression or heaven’s wrath. Oh God.
we measure how our body is barometer or weathervane. riddled with nerves translating the advancing gale as migraine. vertigo in the wind. a weak heart in humid tremors. oedema of the mind, signalling the countdown to apocalypse. such nature I can’t weather anymore.
storm rising; storm landing. storm in a teapot and storm dancing. or the storm that comes through the night in your dreams: wheels of fire spinning across heaven’s blue skies. waking with the thought that the wheels  were silent.
her theory is that prayers solve everything. you think about the weather and go all dialectic on her.
the end approaches. it encroaches. it creeps up from behind. we are blown into it and say we have no choice. but after centuries of feeling it approach and pass, come and go, waiting for the dawn that comes, miraculous, we discover we are weaving the end into ourselves: the eddy of the residue of that first blast is in us.
assuming that we are as captive as the angel, we are propelled, storm first, into ourselves, and there encounter
apocalypse. a theory.
 “Only one story of a path remains, that it is” (Parmenides, fragment 8.1).
 “mire and clay” (Sefer Yetzirah 1:11).
 “chaos and void” (SY 1:11).
 “But a storm is blowing from Paradise and has got caught in [the angel’s] wings” (Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” 395).
 “rush to his saying like a whirlwind” (SY 1:6).
 “The chayot running and returning” (Ezekiel 1:24).
 “the end is embedded in the beginning” (SY 1:1).
 “formed substance out of chaos” (SY 2:6).
This Real, Pedlar Press, 2017. Published with permission of the author.
Concetta Principe is a writer of poetry and creative non-fiction, and scholarship on trauma and literature. Her recent collection, This Real (Pedlar Press 2017) was long-listed for the League of Canadian Poet’s Raymond Souster Award. Her creative non-fiction project, "Stars Need Counting: Essays on Suicide" is coming out with Gordon Hill Press in the spring of 2021. Her work has appeared in Canadian and American journals including The Malahat Review, The Capilano Review, experiment-o, and Hamilton Arts and Literature. She teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at Trent University, Durham, and York University.
DEAR PRINCE OF MELTING ICECAPS,
Bliss has escaped me.
I went down to our beaches.
The oil-sheened, the skinless salmon, the dead
algae, the greasy rocks.
We are in a state. A State.
The moist bliss empty, the air chemical.
The rat on the roof (the political).
The call was internal, societal--
I stood up from a gold chair
in the dank back room of a bank;
you climbed out from under thousands of pennies
piled in a cellar.
We were recently human,
we endeavoured to cycle, we wanted to juggle,
we had only just learned how to play.
The State blew out our candles
and we were in a gorgeous dark,
directing foot and bike traffic to the bridge.
I have ten headlamps, community,
and you have this hunch
we might get along, get along.
The sea coughs up cell phones
as we build our boats.
A kind rat with a human face helps me
carve the oars.
I vaguely remember
a polar bear's story, the fluff
Is it the red sky or the sea?
Jen Currin was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, on the traditional and ancestral territories of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin, Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other tribes. She did her schooling at Bard College (B.A.), Arizona State (M.F.A.) and Simon Fraser University (M.A.). She lives and works on unceded Coast Salish territories (New Westminster, Surrey, and Vancouver, B.C.), where she teaches in the Creative Writing and ACP Departments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Jen’s first collection of stories, Hider/Seeker (Anvil Press, 2018), was one of The Globe and Mail‘s top 100 books of 2018. She has also published four collections of poetry: The Sleep of Four Cities (Anvil Press, 2005); Hagiography (Coach House, 2008); The Inquisition Yours (Coach House, 2010), which won the 2011 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and was shortlisted for the 2011 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (B.C. Book Prizes), the Lambda Literary Award in Poetry, and the ReLit Award; and School (Coach House, 2014), which was a finalist for the 2015 ReLit Award, the Dorothy Livesay Prize and the Pat Lowther Award. Her chapbook The Ends was published by Nomados in 2013. Jen was a member of the editorial collective for The Enpipe Line: 70,000 Kilometers of Poetry Produced in Resistance to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal (Creekstone Press, 2012).
The dinosaurs that didn’t die went slamming into windows, dazzled by the colour of a gold. Instead of flight, they had their houses built on tree tops, over many single blades of grass; they learned to run on fossils of their dead. They lived and learned the many things they thought they had to learn; how to upright, how to sit down, how eventually to crawl. The sun still happened. The water happened. The ice that once had happened didn’t happen anymore. Instead of crawling, the dinosaurs that didn’t lay down without a lullaby and watched a world they made through glass. They saw but thought they didn’t, the edges of the birds whose songs were stuck inside a bottle, the make-believe of golden eggs.
UPON DISCOVERING SILICONE IMPLANTS DO NOT BURN AT 1500 ºF
All the women I have been have been a beautiful shedding of rat snake confused
where her tail ends another bites where the woman ends the Barbie plastic takes
a thousand years to decompose; the leather jacket made for a boy I wore
when everyone forgot it was skin,
now down to hide the reason people don't like rats; they eat their shit. It won't
look good on Food TV. Most days I try to breathe human, speak human to men
producing plastics, men producing sedatives making fishes fearless,
men who say they want to get to know
the inside of an oyster will sever adductors to force her from her shell will cut
the legs off lady bugs when they were boys they didn't know why
the short-tailed cricket eats her wings. I speak human
while they touch
the me that is fake pearls made from cotton and crumbs that glitter
while vacuuming someone else's floor, the me who is dollar store
trophy expendable, botox blocked from genuine signal
reliving the men how a cockroach scuttles for seemingly random
escape reliving the men as apid stinger lodged in the jaw
grinding my teeth while I sleep, the moment
my mind became an ant
marching in circles. All the women I have had to be have been
quiet inside a boardroom watching Predator on casual Fridays,
quiet inside a game of Twister, wrong hand on red
beautiful in lips
sewed up, frog legs stuffed in the back of a cab watching
drunk for cobras between my knees. The amygdala says
orange is the colour of fear. I am spending my life
in someone else's fake tan
as though all the women I have had to become have forgotten
U.V. In a thousand years all that's left of me will be all
those liners on maxi-pads with wings; in a thousand years
I want none of this
to have to matter to all the women I will not be
who after me are issued wings like the short-tailed
cricket; I want the matter of synthetic fibres
return to earth.
"Upon Discovering Silicone Implants Do Not Burn At 1500 ºF" previously published in RiddleFence, Issue 32, Spring 2019.
Paola Ferrante's debut poetry collection, What to Wear When Surviving A Lion Attack, was published Spring 2019 by Mansfield Press.. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in, PRISM International, Joyland, Grain, and elsewhere. She won The New Quarterly's 2019 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award and Room's 2018 prize for Fiction. She is the Poetry Editor at Minola Review and resides in Toronto, Canada. She can be found on twitter @PaolaOFerrante
COSTAL ROAD PROJECT, MUMBAI
of a coral
the barks of trees
like a fresh
field of lichen.
Out of the
a bush of sea sponge
like musk roses.
like onions on
In the dream of a Koli fisherwoman,
the road with
"Coastal Road Project, Mumbai" appeared in the Winter 2020, Issue 51 of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review.
Kunjana Parashar is a poet living in Mumbai. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, UCity Review, MORIA, Bengaluru Review, 45th Parallel, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @wolfwasp.
Debris skirting breakers for miles –
tub ring murk, shells suckered
to trash and kelp like surf store
necklaces. Grand Bend backwash.
Scolded not to wade, children
wearing bucket hats fill cups
with mussel remains, raising
each lumpy haul to the sun,
the glint of marble shards.
Toss them back in with a plop.
By the docks, suburban fishermen
curse the clear water driving
walleyes deeper. Muttering
about the crowds, rip cording
their motor boats, spraying
white fans against the waves.
Under the pier, a teen wings in his drone
to film locals with paint scrapers
stripping shells from wooden legs.
They yell get lost. He calls back
it’s footage for a school project
on damage from invasive species.
David Barrick’s poetry appears in The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Event, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, and other literary magazines. He teaches creative writing at Western University and is Co-Director of the Poetry London reading series. His first chapbook, Incubation Chamber, was published by Anstruther Press in 2019.
My artistic practice concerns a critical examination of human relationships with the natural world and how ecosystems are changing in the anthropocene. I spend time researching ecosystems and the connections within them, particularly via site visits and consultation with scientists and lay experts. My multidisciplinary practice involves collecting materials following ethical foraging practices (plants,
feathers, bones, fungi and lichen specimens, for example) from natural environments, or accessing museum collections for use as raw material in making work, and as reference material.
These large-scale still life images are produced using a high-resolution scanner as my camera: specimens collected during site visits are arranged on the glass, in groupings that serve to illustrate connections in Canadian ecosystems that may not be immediately apparent to a casual observer. The images are elegiac, dark, mourning, representing not contemporary specimens but rather, recontextualized, some last remaining pieces of a fragmented world, floating in the void.
The concepts that I seek to explore with my work – encouraging a sense of wonder, interest, and respectful stewardship with regards to the natural environment – are becoming more and more relevant. It is with increasing unease that I observe developments in human behavior at home and abroad, at the individual and institutional level, that impact negatively on the continued functioning of the complex ecosystems that we humans are part of. I feel that one of my roles as an artist is to interpret events around me and draw attention to matters of political, social, and environmental importance, and so my artistic practice aims to cultivate a deep attention to the details and intricacies of natural ecosystems, and to examine human relationships with the natural world. My pieces attempt to frame the work of plants and animals in terms that are easier for humans to understand, and potentially empathize or identify with. I hope to inspire a sense of wonder or fascination, and encourage the viewer to consider the energy and resources that go into the constant cycle of building and decay in complex environments and ecosystems.
Julya Hajnoczky was born in Calgary and raised by hippie parents, surrounded by unruly houseplants, bookishness and art supplies, with CBC radio playing softly, constantly, in the background. It was inevitable, then, that she would grow up to be an artist. She holds a BA in French from the University of Calgary and a BDes in photography from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Her multidisciplinary practice includes digital and analog photography, fibre art, and book and paper sculpture, and seeks to ask questions and inspire curiosity about the complex relationships between humans and the natural world. Her most recent adventures, supported by grants from the Calgary Arts Development Authority and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, involved building a mobile natural history collection laboratory (a combination tiny camper and workspace, the Al Fresco Science Machine), and exploring the many ecosystems of Western
Canada, from Alberta’s Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in BC and Wood Buffalo National Park, NWT. If she's not in her home studio working on something tiny, she's out in the forest working on something big. See more of Julya’s work at obscura-lucida.com
I’ll rent a basement without Wi-Fi or windows
where my typewriter’s keys evoke the nights
our rain was still gentle. And we’ll have a black cat
named Samuel Bucket. One night, you scream Fuck it
and reconnect the Ethernet to scour the hookup-lands
in which I found you. In response I recount yesterday’s
rumours (kids saying Lima was prey to another monster
storm). The death toll, charities, they’re prolly making
rounds now on CBC, CNN, BBC— and god knows
the death or missing tolls tonight in some other coastal
town. Instead, unplug, ignore the screams above our
bedroom without windows. Board my craft Calypso: let’s
float on this flooded earth where Odysseus abandoned
you. Isn’t that when history began, so many years ago?
Yusuf Saadi’s first collection is Pluviophile (Nightwood Editions April, 2020). He previously won the 2016 Vallum Chapbook Award and the The Malahat Review‘s 2016 Far Horizons Award for Poetry. At other times, his writing has appeared in magazines/anthologies including Best Canadian Poetry 2019, The Malahat Review, Vallum, Brick, Canadian Notes & Queries, Best Canadian Poetry 2018, and Arc Poetry Magazine. He currently lives in Montreal.
TRANSLATIONS OF CORMORANTS
One of the delightful things about drawing is the looking – in drawing you give attention to details that are often otherwise missed – like the space around a bird.
This video belongs to a poem I wrote for the sculptor and hunter Billy Gauthier who I listened to at a symposium in 2020 at Toronto’s Power Plant. He was one of the speakers in a group of Indigenous artists and scientists from the Arctic and Amazon, come together to talk about climate change. It was an incredible conversation to listen to. Billy, in particular, inspired me deeply. And continues to. Here is Billy.
Through this past spring and summer double-breasted cormorants have become my companions, especially those belonging to a colony on the Humber River near home. They glide above our kayaks in the early morning, skimming the surface of the Leading Sea (also known as Lake Ontario). We've marvelled at their nests, hooked beaks, bright green eyes. The adult bird is a deep grey and brown but the youngsters have downy white chests. They are called gaagaagiishib in Ojibwe and they've been here a long time.
The cormorant is a conservation success story – their population was close to making the endangered list some time ago and now they are thriving. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about them, mostly that they're a nuisance and a threat to fish. These are unfounded claims. Distressingly, their future is again in jeopardy. From Sept 15 - December 31st of 2020, the Ontario government has approved their long slaughter. People now have permission to kill up to 15 of these birds a day to "control" their numbers.
Toronto visual artist, conservationist and activist, Cole Swanson is currently hard at work to challenge this. You can read about his efforts (along with Gail Fraser, professor of environmental and urban change at York University) and the research behind his efforts here.
For those of you interested in the film-making process: My partner, Paul Esposti, photographed the cormorants in flight; I used Paul’s photos to draw stills with ink and pencil on vellum (about 90 drawings!). We then photographed each drawing, and Paul turned them into an animation, created the sound design and edited. This is our first attempt at animation, and we’re just getting started. Paul and I both feel like these birds are our neighbours and teachers. We made the film thinking about how much might be resolved in our world if we could learn to care for a cormorant, for the sky and space around a soaring bird.
Paul David Esposti is a photographer and videographer who does his best to listen to birds. One of the ways he listens is through looking closely. Paul's photographed birds from Costa Rica to the Salish Sea and he especially likes photographing them near his home in Etobicoke, Ontario. You can find out more about Paul and see his photographs at pauldavidesposti.com
Jessica Joy Hiemstra is a designer and visual artist who does her best to listen to birds. One of the ways she listens is through drawing. She's also written several books of award-winning poetry, most recently, The Holy Nothing (2016) with Pedlar Press. You can find out more about Jessica here: jessicahiemstra.ca.
A Response to Don McKay
Not no thing, but our
fear of obliteration treats
naming as an end.
What species can conceive
Shield moraines pines beechleaves magpies honeybees snowfleas cells
do not tolerate a void.
Man might be the unintended side-effect,
the by-product of nature, since
humans sense absence,
which does not exist.
The air, no longer a divine canopy,
still teems with molecules, chemicals, atoms,
man persists in declaring nothingness.
This is a lonely species.
Perhaps the origins of dwellings,
man sectioning himself off, started with the walls
of his body filled with isolation where
there is none.
Perhaps he believes
he has the right
to name the space between things,
can perceive the end of all things.
worth his preconceived notice;
he notices nothingness and
does not see anything of note.
But his species dies,
man ceases, and the death rattle
he does not know what nothing he will be.
Mallory Smith is a Creative Writing and English PhD candidate here at the University of Calgary, and the current Artist in Residence to the Cumming School of Medicine. Her thesis poetry collection, Smutty Alchemy, looks at the re-telling of scientific information in verse, materiality, and the work of the 17th century philospher, scientist, and writer Margaret Cavendish. She has interests in photography, recipe making, canoeing, theatre, gardening, and bookbinding.
GREEN CAME INTO MY LIFE THROUGH A HOLE IN THE CEILING
I was gestating the mountainside, as my father sustained betwixtment.
the curvature of the earth was cone-like, before
we ruled out old age—the lips hung like gravity failing.
in the sun had a hedgegarden, if I groomed a mine-swallower,
I, the tongues of hummingbirds animated,
had a burglar alarm; only
dogs spoke in a variety of dialects,
their mouths corned.
out of my shoulder, a man unable to reach low-hanging fruit, a palmful of water.
if brains lip the thoughts
caught in the eyes of
muscles, there are heavenward bodies cloth-pinned.
had the mercy been brainless, our shrivelled
sun is a highway sliced through hills.
Tom Prime is a PhD student in English at Western University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria (Specializing in Poetry). He has a BA at Western University. He has been published in Carousel, Ditch, Fjords Review, The Northern Testicle, The Rusty Toque, and Vallum. His first chapbook, A Strange Hospital, was published on Proper Tales Press. His latest chapbook Gravitynipplemilkplanet Anthroposcenesters, was published on above/ground press. His collaborative collection of poems written with Gary Barwin, A Cemetery for Holes, is available from Gordon Hill Press.
In 1662, the crew of Volkert Evertsz’s ship was marooned on Mauritius.
Spotting a plump bird, he grabbed the bird by its left leg. The captured bird let out a cry which attracted more of the birds. The entire flock was taken and subsequently eaten by the stranded Dutchmen.
Five days later, the crew was picked up by a passing ship, leaving behind the well-gnawed bones of the last documented sighting of the Dodo.
In 1800, the Giant African Snail was imported to Mauritius by Governor General François Louis Magallon de la Morlière as a potential food source. From there, it spread eastward: to Calcutta in 1847 by W. H. Benson; to Ceylon in 1900 by Oliver Collett; to Taiwan in 1932 by Kumaichi Shimojo; and to the Caroline Islands by Junki Miyahira and Palau Island by Shoichi Nishimara in 1938. By 1967, it had reached as far as Tahiti.
It soon became apparent that the Giant African Snail was, in truth, an agricultural pest, so the predatory Rosy Wolfsnail was introduced to many South Pacific islands as a method of biological control. Instead of preying upon the Giant African Snail, however, the Rosy Wolfsnail preferred endemic tree snails to devastating effect. Since its introduction to Tahiti, for example, 71 of that island’s 76 species of Partula snails have become extinct.
In 1826, the HMS Wellington made port in Lahaina, Maui. Sailors, rinsing out water barrels in a local stream, introduced mosquitoes to the Hawai’ian islands. The introduction in turn allowed for the spreading of avian pox and avian malaria.
As a result, the Oahu Thrush, the Oahu O’o, the Oahu ’Akialoa, the Kioea, the Oahu Nukupu’u, the Lesser Koa Finch, the Ula-ai-hawane, the Oahu ’Akepa, the Lanai ’Akialoa, the Kona Grosbeak, the Hawai’i ’Akialoa, the Greater Koa Finch, the Hawai’i Mamo, the Greater ’Amakihi, the Black Mamo, the Lanai Hookbill, the Laysan Millerbird, the Laysan Honeycreeper, the Lanai Thrush, the Hawai’i O’o, the Lanai Creeper, the Laysan Rail, and the Bishop’s O’o were all extirpated from the islands.
In the mid 1840s, the three Icelandic sailors Sigurdur Ísleifsson, Ketill Ketilsson, and Jón Brandsson were asked to collect a few Great Auk specimens for the Danish natural history collector, Carl Siemsen.
On the 3rd or 4th of June, 1844, the three sailors arrived at Edley Island. There, Brandsson and Ísleifsson each strangled a bird. There being no other birds about, Ketilsson crushed an egg under his boot.
These were the last of the Great Auks.
In 1894, David Lyall was appointed assistant lightkeeper on the recently inhabited Stephens Island. In June of that year, Lyall’s cat, Tibbles, started to bring him carcasses of a previously unknown bird, the soon-to-be-named Stephens Island Wren.
By 1895, Tibbles had hunted the Wren to extinction.
On March 24, 1900, Press Clay Southworth saw a bird eating corn in his family’s barnyard. Unfamiliar with the strange bird, the 14 year old shot and killed it.
Several years after the shooting, the state museum in Ohio determined that this was the last authenticated record of a Passenger Pigeon in the wild.
The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore is legendary, primarily for the Singapore Sling, first concocted there by Ngiam Tong Boon in 1815.
Less well known is the Billiard Room where, in 1902, Charles McGowan Phillips, the hotel’s general manager, shot a tiger which had sought refuge under a billiard table. It was reported that, in the process, Mr. Phillips ruined his coat. Not reported, however, was that the tiger was the last on the island.
By the end of the nineteenth century, settlers had managed to exterminate only four species of bird endemic to Lord Howe Island: the White Gallinule, the White-throated Pigeon, the Red-fronted Parakeet, and the Tasman Booby.
In 1918, the Makambo, mastered by Captain ‘Stinger’ Rothery, ran aground on Ned’s Beach, allowing black rats to invade the island. These rats managed to exterminate the Vinous-tinted Thrush, the Robust White-eye, the Silver Eye, the Tasman Starling, the Grey Fantail, and the Lord Howe Gerygone. In addition to these outright extinctions, the rats also extirpated the local populations of the Kermadec Petrel, Little Shearwater, White-bellied Storm-Petrel, and Pycroft’s Petrel.
In the 1920s, the Masked Owl was introduced in an attempt to control the rats. The owl managed to exterminate the endemic Boobook Owl, but not the rats.
The Thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger and Ka-Nunnah, was one of the few marsupial predators.
In 1824, Thylacine discovered that sheep were easy prey. This resulted in a private bounty being established by the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 1830. The VDLC bounty was supplemented by a government sponsored one in 1888. The government bounty was cancelled in 1912, while the VDLC bounty persisted another two years.
In the summer of 1936, the Thylacine was proclaimed a protected species by the Tasmanian Government. Alas, the last Thylacine (named Benjamin) had already died of exposure at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart on September 7th of that year.
In 1943, one of the last refuges for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana was slated for logging by the Chicago Mill Lumber Company.
Asked by the Audubon Society to aid in setting aside a preserve for the bird, James F. Griswold (chairman of Chicago Mill’s board) responded by saying, “We are just money-grubbers. We are not concerned, as are you folks, with ethical considerations.”
The last confirmed sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana was in April of 1944.
At one point, Lake Victoria contained well over 500 unique species of Furu, also known as Cichlid.
In August of 1954, J. Ofula Amaras (a Kenyan fisheries officer) introduced Nile Perch into the lake by means of a bucket. This was done with official sanction in the interest of increasing the value of local fisheries.
For 30 years, the Nile Perch (a voracious predator) co-existed with other fish, having a relatively benign effect on the local ecology. In the early 1980s, however, a slight increase in the number of Furu led to a population explosion amongst the Nile Perch. Within a few years, over 90% of the total species of Lake Victoria Furu had been eaten into extinction.
Prometheus was a Bristlecone Pine located on Wheeler Peak in Nevada.
In 1964, Donald Currey, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, was conducting field research on the climate of the Little Ice Age. In the course of his research, he attempted to core-sample Prometheus. After breaking his only increment borer (a $200 drill bit), Currey, with the permission of Donald Cox (a forest Service District Ranger), cut the tree down.
Subsequent analysis showed that Prometheus was almost 5,000 years old, making it the oldest living known organism at the time.
On January 20, 1997, Grant Hadwin swam across the Yakoun River on Haida Gwaii. A former forester, Hadwin had decided to make a statement protesting the exploitation of old growth trees on the Haida Gwaii archipelago.
Once across the river, he made a series of deep cuts into the trunk of Kiidk’yaas, a striking 300-year-old Sitka Spruce that due to a genetic mutation had golden (rather than green) needles. Kiidk’yaas was a culturally significant tree to the local Haida.
Two days later, Kiidk’yaas toppled in a winter storm.
Sometime in 2006, onboard a research dredger off the coast of Iceland, James Scourse did what he has done hundreds, if not thousands, of times before: he threw a small Ocean Quahog clam into an onboard freezer, preserving it for later study.
On that very same day, Ming the Clam did something that hadn’t occured even once in its 507 years: it froze to death.
Lafarge, a multinational construction company, owns the mineral rights to Guning Kanthan, a limestone hill in peninsular Malaysia. As is the practice of the company, they are in the process of razing the hill to procure limestone used to manufacture cement.
The north side of Guning Kanthan is also the exclusive home of six species of snails. The most famous of the six measures a mere 3 mm in length and was, in July of 2014, named Charopa lafargei in honour of the company that will drive it to extinction.
Late October, 2016, gardener Paul Rees of Widnes, England, found a peculiar Earthworm in his garden. Named Dave by Paul’s stepson George, the worm, at 40 centimetres, was twice as long and over five times heavier than the average Earthworm. In fact, it is thought that Dave is the largest worm ever recorded.
In the interest of science, Rees donated Dave to the Natural History Museum. Dave was transferred to the care of Emma Sherlock, whose speciality is worms and other related animals.
The first thing Dr. Sherlock did, as might be expected, was to euthanize and preserve the specimen.
On March 19, 2018, Sudan, a male Northern White Rhino, died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy if Kenya of complications. Well loved, he is survived by Najin, his daughter, and Fatu, his grand daughter.
He was, as you are surely aware, the last male of his species and Najin and Fatu are the last two females.
Michael Maranda is assistant curator at the Art Gallery of York University. For the past thirty years he has been engaged with the visual arts sector in Canada, as artist, organiser, administrator, curator, editor, advocate, publisher, critic, and, more recently, as quantitative researcher. He runs the publishing activities of the AGYU, and is a prolific commenter on social media. Maranda was educated at the University of Ottawa, Concordia University, and the University of Rochester. His work has shown internationally, primarily in artists book-related venues. For some deeply ironic reason, his rip-off of Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations was exhibited in several of Gagosian’s gallery spaces.
n. the inability to see in dim light
Reason drips and to me it speaks
to my radical, lost dreams it shrieks yet suits
on Wall Street they say, they say,
what are you doing, where are you going?
Compartmentalize these things.
My throat closes and wonders, when
will the cared-for things, will the weather-worn things break
from their binds, my stomach pushes my insides in two
billion knots of plastic rouge.
That should be enough money to buy
a roof, that should be enough money to buy
a noose, that should be enough money to //
Reason slips and to me it speaks
to my sweet, soft, youthful delusions it shrieks yet suits
on Wall Street they say, they say,
come play, come stay!
Compartmentalize your dreams.
TELL ME THESE THINGS AND I SHALL TELL YOU MINE
I was taught shyness,
they ask for a volunteer
I was taught propriety, see
women are not meant to go there
I was taught silence, so to
stand up for myself and other people
of colour means that I feel the need
to say sorry, to you. For
simply being, well, here.
Yet the world is clearer
from here. From here, from this
place where I happen to sit
I might just believe that I might, just be
a person whose skin tone does not make
me, the definition of who or
what I am, perceived— by you
so, here is where you may
find me. Where you may, because I say, stare
into my eyes and watch me
as I stand up to you, calmly shore up
to you, hands clenched in
to fists at the insolence that you
are unaware, that you are.
Ellen Chang-Richardson is an award-winning poet, writer and editor of Taiwanese and Cambodian-Chinese descent. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, Unlucky Fours (Anstruther Press), Assimilation Tactics (Coven Editions) and snap, pop, performance (Gap Riot Press); the founder of Little Birds Poetry; co-founder/co-curator of Riverbed Reading Series; and a member of the poetry collective VII. Her work is forthcoming in The Fiddlehead, untethered magazine, third coast magazine, among others. Ellen currently lives and works on the traditional unceded territories of the Algonquin Anishinabeg First Nation (Ottawa, Ontario). www.ehjchang.com
I should’ve known when I was born
my palm lines were light and cut short
if I walk the beach I walk the line
cadavers and shards shore against my feet
I saw on the news
a white man brought a snowball in court
admit into evidence our invincibility, we’ll live
I’ve been chewing on plastic since
too old for faith, too young to die
follow smeared geese shit on the sidewalk to Neverland
each day the red sun goes into the drying ocean and I ask:
will you come back for me?
is it funny or tragic?
we will all end up sharing one tombstone
here lies a monumental collection of fuck-ups
ask me then, oh neighboring bones
where have I been and where did
I really come from.
Akshi Chadha is a writer based in London, Ontario, Canada. She is pursuing an Honors Specialization in English Language and Creative Writing at Western University. Her work has previously been published in The Roadrunner Review, Symposium, and SNAPS. She is committed to addressing issues surrounding race, climate change, and feminism through her writing.
Stephen Collis hosts the Watch Your Head West Coast launch!
November 5, 2020 at 6pm, (Pacific) 9pm (EST)
FB Invite & Launch Details
Readings by contributors to this climate crisis anthology, with: Hari Alluri, Joanne Arnott, Yvonne Blomer & Jenna Butler, Allison Cobb, Jen Currin, Mercedes Eng, Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Jonina Kirton, Natalie Lim, and Isabella Wang. Hosted by Stephen Collis.
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