By Jordan Hamel
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.
What happened here?
The black vastness of galaxies is somehow
Vanished without a trace
no sign of forced entry
no sign of a struggle.
The milky way is cordoned off
the usual suspects
for questioning quasars
a reduced sentence.
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
like a Chekhov-helmed Mad Max franchise
The debris trail almost looks
All that’s left is the earth’s chalk outline
and an intergalactic detective
lamenting the perfect crime.