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.
"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.
Mostly I look quickly at the latest reports, through the cracks between my fingers, out the
corner of my eye, look away quickly, calculate years to collapse.
A—grass dies; B—human beings die; C—human beings are grass.
It’s years right? Rolling fields of us, all relative, the wind bending the blades back before the
dawn, all in the same direction, rippling, wave and particle, dying in drought, coming back green
in the spring, the colours—we forget—the colours of the grasses, their flowers, led purple
pewter scarlet—like a fever, so small yet so very many—the detail is lost in the collective sheen.
Intercalary meristem. Spiralate movement. We’re all relative. Relatives. That was then. This is
now. The plough is in the sky. The earth is tilled by no one.
A—all civilizations collapse; B—you call this a civilization?
What will have been the case in the future I read will depend upon possible pasts that will also
have been the case at least one of them that is.
Do you have any possible pasts I could trade for some uncertain futures at the going rate? / I
found them by the dumpster out back beside a thrown away planet a bit flat or even concave
like a crushed and stained mattress / I want change I want not this pathway but that presently
unknown one we know too much and too little I am convinced or can infer?
The possible is simply what either is or will be true. If it will be that p will never be the case,
then p—right now—will never be the case.
I am skeptical. Wander through truisms like trees making potential sounds if they are
potentially cut then they are housing. Birds bugs and the precariat. I have no time for this. Then
there will be no time for this at some point in the future.
Stephen Collis is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Commons (Talon Books 2008), Once in Blockadia (Talon Books 2016) and Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten (Talon Books 2018). Current research on the climate emergency and human and other displacements is involved in two in-process projects: Future Imperfect (poetry) and A Sestina for Max Sebald (prose). He lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.
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