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.
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
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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