Jude Cowan’s For the Messengers
• see the video and interview with Jude Cowan at: www.judecowan.net/
Somewhere… the screen fills with smoke, the camera shakes as the crew run to cover the action. Up ahead foul smoke smudges the sky. A man screams or cries. Its is an unforgettable sound, speaking what language sometimes fails to: of the deep well of pain violent acts leave behind like invisible bruises rippling through and past us.
Shreds of red cloth litter the narrow gap between the flaming vehicle and hard shoulder of the road. The camera zooms in and what looked like a pile of bloodied rag is revealed as a child, a woman, a man.Another missile shrieks over-head followed by another devastating impact. The news crew dive behind the twisted frame of a four-wheel drive. The ground shakes.
Somehow….something essential is missing. We are at a loss. |Pain and fury and billowing smoke present themselves as ‘reality’ or ‘fact’; yet, a deeper reality is missing: the human one. While language might fail, or, at least , falter in the blunt brutality of the moment, we are in need of voices to articulate the suffering of our fractured interior landscape with its unseen bomb- craters, smouldering villagers, shredded high-rises, shreds of gut smeared on dusty roads.
While visual media gives an impression of immediacy but authenticity is missing. The part of our brain which deals well with what is seen – which spurs survival instincts – does not process the residues of terror, grief, or, anxiety which we need to for long-term survival. The me-first rush of adrenalin does not equip us for anything more. Deliberation, reflection are needed to enable complexity, relationship and cooperation. Visual content alone cannot.
Language is the base. It is the restorative enabling the comprehension and healing which the merely visual cannot.
Jude Cowan, poet and author of For the Messengers, gives us images in her poetry which, while sometime disturbing, inoculate us against the fearsome emptiness which devastating violence – war, genocides, brutal police actions – leaves behind.
Working as an archivist for Thomas Reuters news agency, Cowan viewed many hours of footage from war and disaster fronts. She says poetry was the form which helped her process what she witnessed.
Perhaps the only thing more hideous than the brutality and violence we are hammered with by the media is the insufferable silence that fills the wounds left behind. In making sense of the horrors witnessed in her job through poetry, with For the Messengers, Jude Cowan provides an antivenin to the toxic visuals of twenty-four hour news: a poetry which inspires connection and empathy in a landscape of ashes.
(via Neil Coombs at PATRICIDE http://darkwindowspress.com/)
review by Tim White ©2012