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.
Pretty Paws is an on-going series of miniature graphite drawings, depicting severed beaver hands and feet with manicured nails. This series accentuates the natural lengthy shape of beaver claws by applying playful, over-the-top nail art. These nails embrace the kitsch, meaning excessive and tacky ornamentation, which is absurd on both beaver hands and as a beauty standard for women. The application of this artificial beauty onto the decaying beaver appendages creates an uneasy tension by referring to the outstanding issue of cosmetic testing on animals.
Sarah Pereux is a Canadian artist currently working in Toronto, Ontario. She is an undergraduate student in the joint Art and Art History program at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College. Working primarily in drawing, her work explores questions concerning environmental ethics, consumerism, and empathy. She uses the alluring aesthetics of monochromatic graphite to create an attraction-repulsion effect that occurs once the viewer dissects the subject-matter of the image.
2030 SURVIVAL GUIDE (TIP #19): FIELD DRESSING
Poster by artist Jen Rae with illustration by Indie Laden.
Commissioned for the Climarte Poster Project II (2019), the poster is a visual double entendre and a provocation to consider a future impacted by climate change from a disaster preparedness perspective. The illustration provides basic instructions on how to field dress a rabbit in case of food scarcity. It also brings to the fore questions around the abdication of climate action and responsibility by the global elite; altruism and population control; and, international food security. The most rigorous scientific report published in human history states we only have 11 years to curb run-away climate change and collapse. Some are preparing for the worst better than others in the game of ‘survival of the richest’. For instance, billionaires are investing in prime farmland globally; ‘doomsday bunkers’ are now hot real estate for rich ‘preppers’; and, most apocalyptic survival guides are written by and for middle-class, often middle-aged, white men. What does that mean for commoners? Disasters heighten disadvantage. By the time the elite take action, it might be too late for most commoners.
Excerpt from the CLIMARTE POSTER PROJECT II (2019), curated by Will Foster
Dr. Jen Rae is a Narrm (Melbourne)-based artist-researcher of Canadian Métis-Scottish descent engaged in the discursive field of contemporary environmental art and a scholar in arts-based environmental communication. Her creative practice and research interests centre around food systems knowledge, disaster scenarios and ecological futures thinking via transdisciplinary collaborative methodologies and community engagement. Jen is a multi-art-form artist including public art, drawing, animation and cookery.
Indie Ladan is a Melbourne-based illustrator and freelance graphic designer with more than ten years experience in the industry, designing and consulting for corporate and non-profit organisations as well as local businesses. Her recent projects include branding designs, illustrations, website designs, photography, social media management, art direction, signage design and many more.
(after A.M. Klein)
The weather cites the welling mercury;
un autre mois comme ça, we'll all be dead –
so say the clamours banging on our walls.
In the papers, calls
for carbon caps are lain next to a sea
of melting rhetoric. Sunburns run red.
A week, and it will break! How many stores
of all their A/C units are blood-let?
Outside their boiled abodes, the city tries
to fight off fire with ice,
cones ripple and dip, kids squeeze their Freezies warm.
There are no winds to fan our fevered têtes.
But it will come! One night this week a boom
will wake the sweltering masses, light will flash,
fat drops will pound upon our window panes,
then roust from cooling rooms
the sardine-tin-packed youth to a terrasse
'til autumn overtakes us yet again.
Alex Manley is a Montreal-based writer whose work has appeared in Maisonneuve magazine, The Puritan, Carte Blanche, and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day feature, among others, and whose debut poetry collection, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, was published by Metatron Press in 2016.
Carrianne Leung is a fiction writer and educator. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and Equity Studies from OISE/University of Toronto. Her debut novel, The Wondrous Woo, published by Inanna Publications was shortlisted for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. Her collection of linked stories, That Time I Loved You, was released in 2018 by HarperCollins and in 2019 in the US by Liveright Publishing. It received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, and was named as one of the Best Books of 2018 by CBC, That Time I Loved You was awarded the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 2019 and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Awards 2019 and long listed for Canada Reads 2019. Leung’s work has also been appeared in The Puritan, Ricepaper, The Globe and Mail, Room Magazine, Prairie Fire and Open Book Ontario.
These men who talk about war
like they know how to kill people
like they've learned how to kill people
in the millions
Yeahhhh baby, jets, bombs, ships, drones
we got it
you got oil
we want it
you got lithium
we want it
our people are going green
We need lithium
get those fuckin Indians out of the city
We don't need to hear that mother earth shit
unless Johnny Depp says it
cause he smells nice
David Groulx is the author of 11 books of poetry. From Turtle Island to Gaza (Athabasca University Press) is his most recent.
"This year, for or the first time in memory,
the monarch butterflies didn’t come . . . Last year’s low
of 60 million seems great compared with the fewer
than three million that have shown up so far." / NY Times, Nov. 22, 2013
terrific millionfold monarch migration
in the forest of my youth in the filtered light
of a morning I did not know was morning
amidst populations I did not know would instruct me
sexualized in the coupling force beyond mammal selection
an electrical transmission below the level of sunlight
filtered through towers of living monarch forests
spinning cathedral glass exploded from axis
a diagram of surfaces, light refracted
into flocks of autonomous magnetic sensors
spinning away and toward meridional centers
hundreds of millions of representations
each caught in the eco-swirl of its own sexual
metabolic foraging exploratory hungers
the task is not to become cinematic
for the screen here is exploded the data streams
points of light humans waving their cells
network engines humming data servers
grounding the flock in some undisclosed location
each click an ear of corn burning off the potential
in massed hives of inequality the city humming
with its "own" light that is not its own
burning out the fields the wilderness of flowering
medicinal intelligences shrinking the margin
of attainability the growth gross surplus punishes
straggling monarchs only seem weak until they are
collapse of the network no more visible than its rise
in the shadow of swarms who crowd source explore
cycling inward but what do we counter
the task is not to become elegiac
yet to remember clearly when there was light
brought by other intelligences when the economic
relations were already fucked nothing primary
to experience but the orientation of the objects
in this field of ontological relations massed evidence
available to travelers catching the updraft
of laboring hungering heat at colonial borders a boy
could still hound me into those woods wanting
a bit of change that wasn't in my pocket I could
still be left alone with the flaming alien masses
finally to catch a ride atop a load of resinous timber
back of a truck loaded with logger exhaustion
in the slow economic violence not yet the terror of cartels
the task is to breathe in as well as out
catching a bit of monarch fire in a gentle swarm
in a Clear Creek Canyon above the Colorado
below the towers of Zoroaster Temple, in the early light
of a love whose extinction seemed impossible
impossible as the solitary roving fluttering monarchs
each minding its own tenuous relation minding me
to care for the buried threads of now to then
the spots of time and spaces stitched by migratory
desires, memory, all will power the free-fall struggles
down and up economical topographies of relation
yet actual bodies blinking across the fossil landscape
migratory swarming intelligences only dimly aware
of their own orogenic and plate tectonic powers
the task is to honor the contact and the fire
not the program, to be methodical in action
doing our thing, basking in microclimates, longing
for the heart of the heat of the sun of the swarm
massed in genetic code, memories stored as images
impulses, without which the sprayers roll in silence
across fields of shining corn bundled and sheathed
in cash-clad towers only seeming to be seeds
the deadly vertical updraft of minerals and nutrients
exhausting the soil in row after row of green
desire unmixed by memory, an engineer's paradise
in name only, behind every drone a man
and paymaster, behind every monarch a million
who have always been relation the wing-clad
boughs only seeming to be leaves but who notices
when a network goes offline a constellation
extinguished in the penumbra of failing telescopes
Founder and editor of the influential journal ecopoetics, Jonathan Skinner is the author of Political Cactus Poems (2005), Warblers (2010), Birds of Tifft (2011), and Chip Calls (2014), and his essays have been anthologized widely. He teaches at the University of Warwick.
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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