In Thief Behind the Mask, CR Avery calls out “the masterminds of climate crimes.”
Video produced by Sierra Club BC and filmed by Ethan Miller.

SLAM POETRY is quickly gaining ground in Canada, with poetry slams popping up in cities across the country, sending new teams to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word each year. Janice Lee of Kitchener-Waterloo Spoken Word (KWPS) argues that there isn't actually such thing as "slam poetry" per se, only poetry slams. If it has a definition, it is the style of spoken word performed at poetry slams, which, as you will see, tends to be emphatically delivered and political in nature.

Poetry slams are competitive events, usually done in two or three elimination rounds and often recruiting judges from the audience to do the scoring. Local groups such as KWPS will organize a series of slams througout a slam season, and the overall winners form a team which represents their city at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. 

A\J turned to members of KWPS and Guelph Spoken Word for their favourite environment-related pieces, and this is what we found. Get ready to get riled up!

Warning: Some of these poems include a little bit of swearing.

I worry that when the glaciers are gone and the North Saskatchewan dries up, we’ll reminisce.

Former A\J intern and uWaterloo alum Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon’s When the Glaciers are Gone inspires us to build a future in which we reminisce about draining pipelines, not glaciers. Kathryn performed this piece at the Edmonton Poetry Festival.

Believe Suncor, Shell and Syncrude who spin crude tales out of the truths of tailings ponds that leave toxic trails in our bodies, the water, the land.

Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon’s Come West, Young Man challenges the siren call of the high-paying work in Alberta’s tar sands with a call of her own. Full text available here. (Apologies for the sideways video)

It’s not raining in the rainforest! Mother, where are your tears?

In Tears for the Amazon, Guelph (and sometimes KW) poet Meme asks what it will take to stop the drought and give life back to the planet. Meme and David James Hudson, also of the Guelph slam team performed the poem at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word 2011. 

 The world was once more divided up by colour and class when men in suits met in luxury hotels, segregated from protests and consequences, to decide the future of the planet in Cancun.

Colour Lines in Burning Futures by David James Hudson and performed with Meme at a Guelph Spoken Word poetry slam in 2011, explores how the impacts of climate change fall along racial lines around the world.

We take away your dignity, using our Canadian companies to evict you illegally... burn your homes, crops, lives to the ground.

uWaterloo alum Rachel Small’s Lo Siento, Gautemala is an apology based on her first-hand account of the havoc wreaked by Canadian mining companies in Guatemala. Performed with Kathryn Lennon at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in August 2010. Rachel shares more about her experiences in Gautemala in another poem, Lote 8.

 Long before you tried to sterilize our seed and bury us in concrete, we plants whispered sweet to one another.

From Vancouver poet Johnny MacraeFreaks of Nature is an open letter from nature to the human race reminding us of the symbiotic nature of our relationship – and warning of what might happen if we forget. 

 I’m no treehugger, we all know that, but goddamn, that Mother Nature could use a day off.

Gone, by Hamilton’s The P.O.E. is an homage to Joni Mitchell and a call to recognize what we’ve got before it’s (all) gone.

Share your favourite eco-poems below!

Laura is a past A\J managing editor. She has an MA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, is an organizing aficionado, lackadaisical gardener, and former musical theatre producer. @inhabitings

If you liked this article, please subscribe or donate today to support our work.

A\J moderates comments to maintain a respectful and thoughtful discussion.
Comments may be considered for publication in the magazine.