13 Ways of Looking at Climate Change: Winning Poem

This summer, EVENT Magazine partnered with the Faculty of Language, Literature, and Performing Arts at Douglas College in 13 Ways of Looking at Climate Change—a showcase of student-driven interdisciplinary art and discourse as a response to climate change. One aspect of the showcase was a writing contest open to all students at Douglas College.

We enthusiastically congratulate Christopher Rice on his winning poem, “it starts with an ‘N.’”

 it starts with an 'N' 
Christopher Rice

in a skyscraper overlooking manhattan
a chief executive officer is sitting across from
an amalgamation of eyes, wings, and hooves.

he is being congratulated on increasing
the frequency of worldwide droughts.
he believes he is this close to owning the rain.

three thousand feet below, an eager team
of lawyers is handing cease-and-desists
to passersby who've forgotten umbrellas.

deep underground there is a managerial office
overlooking a factory specializing in chocolate,
syrup, and chocolate-syrup related goods.

a manager is listing the benefits of replacing
cocoa with uranium when he hears the newly
implemented conveyor-belt break down.

the conveyor-belt leads into a machine
that converts radiation poisoned employees
into glucose through an eight-step process.

the manager will be fed into the machine
after hemorrhaging while eating cereal
he acquired from the factory at a discount.

he will die dreaming of patenting lakes.
little does he know, lakes are already patented.

Creative Writing student and contest co-judge, Jono Lam, spoke further with Rice in this author’s interview:

JL: How did you come up with the corporate office setting in your poem?

CR: I was commuting home from work and realized I’d forgotten my water bottle. It was hot and I was hungover and very thirsty, so I bought a plastic water bottle from the corner store. Looking at the label I saw the water was from British Columbia, and I remembered a comedian talking about how ridiculous it is that corporations want to own water. I think he specifically mentioned owning the rain. Then I thought of deals with the devil, biblically accurate angels, and I don’t really know what else. The image of the corporate office just sort of came into my mind at that point. 

Christopher Rice author photo

JL: Could you further illuminate the inspiration and meaning behind the poem’s title?  

CR: What starts with an N is a company that deals in water bottles, chocolate syrup, and I’m not really even sure what else. I’m not really an anti-capitalist by any means, but when you look up things like companies that own other companies, and you look at the infographics that pop up in the images, it all starts to feel a little bit like a conspiracy. At the very least, it feels sort of unreal. I mean the company that starts with an N owns so many smaller companies that don’t start with an N. I don’t know the owner of said N-corporation, but if his name doesn’t start with an N then I guess it all starts with something else.  

JL: How do you hope your poem might make readers think about climate change?

CR: I’m not really sure. I think people these days are anxious about so many things, and I believe this poem to be somewhat humorous. At the very least, it’s absurd. I don’t really view poems as vehicles for social change, or anything so major. At the end of the day, a poem is just something someone wrote while playing around with words. I just hope somebody reads the poem and smiles, or maybe even laughs, because with these large threats to our lives or humanity or the Earth, sometimes I feel like that’s all we can do. 

Christopher Rice is debatably employed and currently in between living situations.

Jono Lam is a Douglas College student from Vancouver who has haphazardly fallen into creative writing.