In early 2008 Jude Cowan began to write poems in response to the un-packaged daily news footage she was archiving for the Thomson Reuters news agency. She continued throughout what proved, globally, to be a tumultuous and historic year. For the Messengers draws together this work and is a startling document. From the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination to the Mumbai terror attacks; from economic boom to near meltdown; from the first Olympic Games to be held in China to the election of Barack Obama, Cowan draws on an array of material from across six continents. She has a talent for locating the key details which cut to the human centre of a story and levels a sharp eye and subtle wit wherever she turns her gaze. These skills, allied with a sure poetic gift, help her do justice to the day-to-day journalistic footwork which this book illuminates and celebrates.
“Jude Cowan has gone where I’ve never seen a jobbing journalist tread before. This is news observed with so discerning an eye that marvellous detail emerges within the poetry. Read her book. We are the richer for it.”
– Jon Snow, Channel 4 News
“Unlike the daily news that fades from view, Jude Cowan’s images linger in the memory. She creates poetry which finds the humanity amid the horror of our times. Her work is outstanding.”
– Bill Neely, International Editor, ITN News
The Brujo Mayor wears yellow to attract money.
He turns his tarot to the Empress.
Hillary Clinton will be the next US President.
Prediction bursts through ruddy cheeks,
springs from ebullient eyebrows,
trickles down his long grey beard.
He grows serious, tells, country by country,
of a terrible series of disasters.
Central America will almost disappear.
Acolytes cast spells. Journalists scribble.
A good day’s work, another quirky tale
captured for the Reuters Life! feed.
Saudi Arabia: Oil Hunters
Before the oil we were shepherds
and drivers of camels, chasing stars,
crossing unmarked borders. Beneath
the wide tent we drank-in quiet,
our teapots nestled in roasting charcoal.
Then came oil. Wellheads bloomed, their
metal trunks withstanding desert heat,
growing strong on rich calories of black blood.
Riyadh teems with petrol pumps, and down
its streets we shunt in mighty machines,
managed by signs directing our migrations.
Transparent parabolas praise the cliff
of Kingdom Tower, water plays
like children at its palm-strewn feet.
In Salhiya a woman goes
back into the rubble
to collect her paraffin heater.
It’s needed even more without walls.
What happened to the trim locks
and smart suits in which this leader
told attentive soldiers
how to make enemies and eradicate people?
Can eleven years on the run change a man?
His beard and hair grown long and wild,
sprouting freely in newsprint and video.
His two-faced two faces roam Europe’s media,
encapsulating Karadzic past and present,
professional dispenser of war and medicine.
He shall receive our finest justice.
As seconds shift, angry observers watch
for the minutest of changes
in his concentrated face.
Light clouds play on his wrinkles.
He makes a tiny turn of the mouth,
brings a slight quiver to his eyes.
The doctors aren’t sure
if this ocular treatment
gives relief of any kind,
but he must drink his medicine in public.
He must be seen to take it.
Zimbabwe: New Parliament
The smell of shit on the streets
goes up the noses of MPs
and judges who cheerfully parade
a new season of power.
The old government is refreshed in Zim,
where nightmares about zeros
harry bankers, and money is printed
with an expiry date.
When you’re riding through hell
you just keep on riding, scream
the four horsemen,
hooves churning the red earth.
from For the Messengers (Donut Press, 2011).
Order For the Messengers.
Visit Jude’s For the Messenger’s website.
Donut Press book launch and 10th birthday celebration
Date: Saturday, 5 February 2011
Time: 19h30 – 23h30
Venue: Balls Brothers, (downstairs at) 158 Bishopsgate, London, EC4 (Liverpool Street tube)
Come and help Donut Press launch spanking new titles by Matthew Caley, Jude Cowan, A.B. Jackson, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Ahren Warner, and celebrate ten years in the publishing game. Special Guests and fantastic sounds – soul, ska, reggae and blues – from the wonderful Ms Laura Michelle Anderson.
Read more about all the new titles on the Donut Press website.