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.
Polished cameo a distilled mirror
steam skimmed skin
of water in the oval cue
The ocean has no perceptible bottom
The detritus of cargo ships strewn,
No one dives
no strolls to retrieve
Don’t rise too quickly back up to the sky
Animal exhalations hold the wreckage
of your heart poured into
a white porcelain sink,
A paint spattered canvas
Still, breathing – oxygenated
There is not enough fresh air.
near, a view, a window
further, distant, the port.
(a churning inland sea,
painted surface of nothingness)
what emerges four-legged
from the shore a figure-ground
illusion of an ancient-creature
still living, distilled
breath, “Dressed Landscape for
Dry Ice Studies.”
The perspective of a band practice
The tarry instruments, tinny, far away
of amplifiers affixed to stilts
Someday the body will remember
A generation of flailing limbs
A Flirtation with Rapture
The Skin of Victorian buildings
floating in the after-birth of
The painting hand thinking
in a network of gestures
of the linked orbital of satellite
layers of the ascension
the numbing epidermal of embodiment
cold metal needle
in the simulacra the metronome
of a shaking hand
the surgeon, hirsute
At the bottom of the painting, hand-written,
The cut ice letters
Here where Holy ghost prophecy carries more weight than science
Freedom senses all the tears
of a thousand windowsills
The rainbow of men and women
shoulder to shoulder
entering hotels and shelters
Rowboat sailors with buttoned oars
rough coughing from lungs
of a sulfur sheen
Of black coal in lieu of flowers
holding the skirt of the lake.
A thousand monarchs
rose up, lifted
both sides of the sky
exposed exploited roe
Inlaid into monoculture rows
A cascade of waterfalls and memories
accompanied the rain all night
Rattling on about the cusp
as it danced
though never unattended
The flood waters rang out
May the lake take you
under to dream
May the sky rise to meet you
when you awaken.
Robert Frede Kenter is a writer and visual artist, who lives with ME/FM, is widely published and exhibited and is a 2020 Pushcart nominee. Work recently in Black Bough, Burning House Press, Cypress, Talking about Strawberries, Floodlight Ed., Anthropocene, Cough. Robert is publisher of Toronto-based Ice Floe Press www.icefloepress.net & author of a recent hybrid collection, Audacity of Form (Ice Floe Press). A chapbook of VISPO, "EDEN", is forthcoming later in 2021. Robert was a feature reader in 2020 at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. Twitter: @frede_kenter
Pollok Free State, 1995 (i.m. Colin Macleod)
New car smell rammed into the roadbed until it stinks
of the earth’s gut: muddy leaves, wet dog, plum-cake.
Lichen-rust tectonic under bonnets, engines furred.
Headlight bulbs are goldfish bowls, tenantless. Doors pucker
with each slam and the boot flaps like a gull-wing.
Twin-exhausts are organ pipes, emptying. Everything natural,
every thing resourced: we make the things that make us,
moulded or vulcanised. Blacked tyres made up with stibnite.
When we fire them, rubber drips from the wheel-arches like hot sugar,
sweet petroarticles of faith on the tongue. We circle
each instant monument, generous heretics, knowing
these are ugly gods – bitter in the stomach, black in the lung.
ANIMAL TRIALS: STATEMENT FROM THE TRIAL OF THE WEEVILS OF SAINT JULIEN
In the spring of 1587…some weevils were arraigned before the ecclesiastical court
in St Jean-de-Maurienne for despoiling the vineyards of St Julien.
John Harwood, ‘Deliver Us from Weevils’, Literary Review, August 2013
If I may speak
on behalf of my sisters
who, of late, have sprung
bright from the soil and turned
these vineyards into frail
stock and failed wines;
at no time did we act
contrary to our creation;
and, indeed, as you will know
Reverend Father, your wormy
books spell out in calfskin
and ink, that we precede
your own ape-like standing
in the Great Chain of Being.
God created animals first,
– each creeping thing –
and gave us every green herb for food.
If I may be so bold: the holy vine-leaf
sweetens in our grubbing mouths;
the grape swells for us, juicy globes
without sin. You might damn
us to desist but you would do well
to remember this: this trial
will not bring the control you crave.
Insects are on the side of the angels
and we shall turn you out, even unto the grave.
"Carhenge" first published in The Scores, then Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel, 2020)
"Containerization" first published in Gutter, then Stitch (Tapsalteerie, 2018)
"Animal Trials: Statement from the Trial of the Weevils of Saint Julien" published in Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel, 2020)
Samuel Tongue's first collection is Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel, 2020) and he has published two pamphlets: Stitch (Tapsalteerie, 2018) and Hauling-Out (Eyewear, 2016). Poems have appeared in Magma, The Compass, Finished Creatures, Gutter, The Interpreter's House, Envoi and elsewhere. Samuel is Project Coordinator at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh and he lives in Glasgow. www.samueltongue.com; Twitter: @SamuelTongue
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.
I ought to start with someone else's gain,
step outside myself, put on the red
and distant visor, be the other queen.
Remember what is still to come. Forget.
An ocean, say, with pebbles full of eyes –
or what were once the outer skins of sight –
how beautiful they are, intact and white
against the deadened grey, intense cerise.
Or maybe sand instead; the other side
of memory. A hundred million minds
A sparrow hops across snow.
A dog barks.
The wishbone though.
Intact and delicate
like a canoe slicing
through the nothingness
that should have been
a heartbeat. Strength
so often gets overlooked
in the pink hour of
dried blood. And so we miss
the open mouth of determination,
the way a foot is lifted not
towards or away from
Ayesha Chatterjee is the author of two poetry collections, The Clarity of Distance, and Bottles and Bones. Her work has appeared in journals across the world and been translated into French and Slovene. Chatterjee is past president of the League of Canadian Poets and chair of the League’s Feminist Caucus. She is poetry advisor for Exile magazine.
There is one road in and out –
mountain to sea and back again.
We take it while we still can,
trail the steady line of traffic
climbing towards a choked sky.
Streams only travel in one direction
or dry up in heatwaves such as this.
The temperatures are still rising.
Last night, as the children slept,
we watched light streak across the sky
illuminating our shack on the hill –
the back steps built close
to jagged shrubs and grass.
This morning we packed everything
and left, shoved pink flip-flops
and beach-balls into the boot,
headed north. We saw flames
above the trees. By nightfall
that road was blistered, nothing
but a scorched leaf-littered underpass,
a net for fiery embers and sparks.
Burning strips of eucalypt bark
leapt from one side of the black lake
to the other. We watch the news,
recognise place names, on digital maps,
not meant for tourists. We walked
those beaches where huge groups
gather, waiting for the ferocious fires
to burn themselves out, return again
to ash-dusted patches of land.
When life comes down to a headspace of air
beneath a jetty – the atmosphere toxic –
and above swirling tornadoes of fire,
the house burning down to the ground,
trees glowing scarlet in the haze, hissing,
spitting out sparks, and a fireball sun
beaming yellow, eucalypts exploding
under a Mercurian orange-streaked sky –
you cling to wood, cling to your grandchildren,
let the youngest lock fingers around your neck,
her blonde curls bobbing on the cold surface,
her eyes wide, lips a thin, pale line – wonder
where their mother is, if she’s praying, check
for five heads above water. Make your case.
Stephanie Conn is a poet and current PhD Researcher from Northern Ireland. Her first collection The Woman on the Other Side (Doire Press, 2016) was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for Best First Collection. Her pamphlet Copeland’s Daughter (Smith/Doorstep, 2016) won the Poetry Business Poetry Competition. Her most recent collection Island was published by Doire Press in 2018. Stephanie is a multi-award winning poet, including the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. She is the recipient of a range of Arts Council awards and has read her work locally, nationally and internationally. Find out more at https://stephanieconn.org/. Follow @StephanieConn2
IF TINY CRYSTALS FORM CLOSE TO THE EARTH’S SURFACE THEY FORM DIAMOND DUST
My antler heart grows hooves.
I follow the lead from the pack.
Find shelter in a drunken forest--
what species isn’t at risk.
Insulating properties of snow
keep me warm--
trapped air between each flake.
With body heat and earth-transfer heat
my home becomes a snowbank.
It’s not the hare’s scream
it’s the antecedent silence.
we fill ourselves up
with slow-banked health
push off the not needed
with the growth behind it
we tick silent rings
inside our own xylem clocks
each wound is sealed
with home-spun adhesive
we synthesize sunshine to a flameless fire
we shed to survive to burn spring green
All parts have a line
with never end.
a shatter zone.
Cries by a gate can’t
slip out, they hover.
Hold blue in your hands.
Go on, cup sky. This isn’t illusion.
The sound of absence is your boat
coming in. The work is in the meadow.
It’s hard to put past in a safe place.
Some eyes see, if not birds.
“If Tiny Crystals Form Close to The Earth’s Surface They Form Diamond Dust” first published in the UK literary journal Stag Hill Literary Journal
“The Trees” first published in the LCP anthology: Heartwood: a League of Canadian Poets Anthology
“Intersections” published in the online UK journal/website Burning House Press
Catherine Graham is an award-winning Toronto-based writer. Her sixth poetry collection, The Celery Forest, was named a CBC Best Book of the Year, appears on the CBC Books Ultimate Canadian Poetry List and was a finalist for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insect was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Poetry Award and the CAA Poetry Award. Her debut novel Quarry won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for fiction, “The Very Best!” Book Awards for Best Fiction and was a finalist for the Sarton Women’s Book Award for Contemporary Fiction and the Fred Kerner Book Award. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award and is a previous winner of the Toronto International Festival of Authors’ Poetry NOW competition. Æther: an out-of-body lyric will appear in 2020 with Wolsak and Wynn. Visit her at www.catherinegraham.com Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @catgrahampoet
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
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Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
Coach House Books