Jordan Hamel is a writer, poet and award-winning poetry slam performer. He is one of the co-editors of the Climate Change Poetry Anthology, due to be published by AUP in 2021. Here we publish his poem Cold Case, along with an illustration by Ruby Jones.

Why are you making an anthology of poetry about climate change?

The idea came about a year ago. Co-editor Erik Kennedy came to me and the others [poets Essa May Ranapiri and Rebecca Hawkes], partially as an artists’ response to a topic that's only becoming more immediate and prevalent in our lives. 

Erik had noticed the increasing amount of writing centred around climate change across the Pacific, and he thought this needed to be catalogued in one volume, that can act as a historical record, or a call to action, of how a range of writers are responding to climate change.

Is poetry an effective medium to talk about climate change?

It can help people care, because it can be quite overwhelming to be faced with a lot of information that can be complex and dry and intense. 

While none of us are under the illusion that poetry can save the world, we think there is some value in highlighting how the creatives in our society are responding to climate change.

There’s the power of narrative and storytelling. The Climate Change Commissioner Rod Carr said that New Zealanders are struggling to engage with some of the messages and detail around climate change, and that narrative can be helpful in getting people to engage.

Has there been times when poetry has helped you engage in intense topics you might otherwise shy away from?

It happens to me a lot, there’s a lot of things where I'm like, “I should know more about that but I’m too lazy to learn about it”. 

One example is the poet Tusiata Avia, her poem 'Jacinda Ardern goes to the Pacific Forum in Tuvalu and my family colonises her house'.

It stopped me in my tracks, it is a very coherent, striking way of looking at a very intensely political issue.

What impact do you hope to see from the Climate Change Poetry Anthology?

The first cool outcome is just to have a physical book that's representative of a range of different voices, young voices and indigenous voices, because the issues of climate change intersect so much with colonialism and capitalism.

We want the poems to canvass a range of different mindsets, because poets use poetry for different reasons - using it as a coping mechanism, using it as a call to action, or as a tool for hope and observation.

We’re currently reading through all the submissions, and it's very clear that this is an issue that's very close to a lot of New Zealanders, and it’s gonna be a fucken great anthology. 

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Illustration by Ruby Jones

Cold case

 

What happened here?

 

The black vastness of galaxies is somehow

                                blacker?

         Vanished                     without a trace

no sign of forced entry

           no sign          of a struggle.

 

The milky way                               is cordoned off

           the usual suspects

                                           dragged in

 for questioning                                quasars

             antimatter               promised 

     a reduced sentence. 

 

                          Gumshoe sighs 

            a lunar gust

stubbed cigarette       becomes a new constellation.

 

Moss only grows in the skulls

no one claims         swamps sprout

          bodies         of misdeed.

 

We hurt each other in elegant ways.

 

          Pick seeds of cruelty from our teeth

spit into strangers’ champagne brunches

          slip holes into rivals’ evening wear

Plan heists     to unburden them

      fine china        diamond necklaces

                    just in time to ruin

the big fundraising gala!

Timing is everything 

                               we used to have.

Centrifugal force still creaks       and sways

stretch marks and ellipses        give

 

a haggard,                         transient look

                         Dystopian naturalism

like a Chekhov-helmed Mad Max franchise

 

The debris trail almost looks

          accidental?

 

All that’s left is the earth’s chalk outline 

          and an intergalactic detective

          lamenting the perfect crime.