New on for 2017! Book reviews. That’s a first around these parts. Thoroughly enjoyed reading and then writing this. Jude Cowan Montague presents her own show, The News Agents on London’s Resonance FM, and is something of a renaissance person; writer, artist, musician amongst many other this. This is her most recent poetry collection, published through Wisdom’s Bottom Press. Below is my review.
The Wires: 2012 is the most recent poetry collection by Jude Cowan Montague. It re-imagines Montagues’s job mediating international television news for consumers, as an archivist for ITN during 2012.
In these days, when news is reported on for mass consumption, there is an instant trigger reaction, demanding that the audience is to feel something. Thanks to advances in social media, international news items are commented on as soon as the stories break. In some cases, leading figures in the world of politics are free to open and shut down debate with their public as they see fit.
Montague’s job at Reuters involved sifting through reels of news footage, often silent and completely without emotion or information, for readiness to be packaged into a news bulletin. The Wires: 2012 is an exhilarating ride via distance.
The collection is split into five parts, each carrying a slow build-up of events. The action is set out in front of the reader/viewer as a mise-en-scene in cinema or on the stage. This arrangement is present in Montague’s writing with meticulous detail, creating landscapes of pathetic fallacy out of inanimate objects. The poems in the book meander between the thoughts, hallucinations and inner voices, real and imagined of its many characters who begin to populate these alien landscapes. The people who appear in these alien, war-torn areas in somewhere most of us will never go to, exist on the screen in front of the reader/viewer. We see snapshots of their lives, unable to do anything but react. And then the news changes.
Montague’s mastery of emotional improvisation across many art forms are shown in the text with excellent use of line-spacing and cut-up techniques (indeed, the front cover appears in the style of a ransom note favoured within Situationist art.) This stream-of-consciousness bombardment of course reminds me of Leopold Bloom’s walk through Dublin in Ulysses, however I was also reminded of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis when reading this work, the actions move from one scene to another seamlessly, making rhe reader/viewer is unsure if the action has changed. Referencing Kane, the writing has a definite dream-like quality, vivid dreams that we all share from waking up with caffeine and prescription pills and sleeping on alcohol, combined with first-world stress and bombardment of imagery in modern-day living. In these dreams appear a distortion of our own safe reality; faded and torn billboard and advertisement hoardings pepper the action within the book, much like a sponsored link on Facebook or adverts during commercial television in our daily lives.
““They don’t have commentary but they have a script and a little backstory, which is really useful for me to gain other knowledge. I just try to respond in a human way. I’m looking for an emotional connection. I think the main danger is over-interpreting action. This is true for lots of forms of writing. The important thing is to keep things immediate. I think of DH Lawrence’s poetry a lot in this work.”
These days most of us contend with having social media mind-flips/mind-fillips punctuating our thoughts every few seconds with different tangents opening up parallel universes. With news analysis and instant connectivity, The Wires: 2012 holds a distorted mirror up to a new world quick to like and re-tweet, the pre-determined shocked, laughing and angry faces and the thumbs up, and offers an alternative of dignified silence and reflection.