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The Watchman
[paperback]

£12.00

In keeping with the main body of the work (which as it happens is all of a piece with the rest), Guy Wilgress Hudson's "The Watchman", opens with a couple of exploratory textual forays. These opening salvoes are neither essays nor stories (but both too + poems or urpoems) The narrator (the one 'semiotic signifier' I think intentionally not named in the preamble) introduces us to several protagonists - Harold, George, The Watchman, Guy Wilgress Hudson, Fred and Author. This review, for purposes of clarity, will refer in the main to the 'narrator' as the producer of meaning, and to the work as a 'text'. When the need arises, it will be necessary to unpack these, to qualify the terms; for instance, the text is certainly of the mixed-media variety, and the narrator is first person, is largely 'The Watchman'.
It's a clumsy way of beginning a review, but we're dealing with a narrator who claims:

"As a poet I would like to put forward the opinion that even the meaning of words is rubbish. To attach meaning to a word is profanity. I have heard about semiotics and multiple significations. Words mean whatever we want them to mean. That's profane because I know I don't know. If my hunch is right then I do not know."

Are sites of meaning then, up for grabs? I think I know the answer and the answer is 'No'. In truth, I'm sure the narrator knows this too. Sure, sites of meaning are provisional, but not limitless. Karl Marx, in speaking of the dialectic talked about the 'abstract rising to the concrete.' The narrator of Hudson's text acknowledges this position when, in pursuit of the 'Great Work of Fiction, he accedes:

"I think the Author has lost his way again. I think I should employ a lady to write the actual body of the Great Work of Fiction. She would have to understand the Authors [sic] wishes and exactly what the main intentions of the Author are in the writing of that body of the text."

In short, writing such a work takes a great deal of work, and, as modern history attests, when a man has such work to be done, and can't manage it alone, he 'gets a woman in' for the job. Here, the work of literature is made explicit. Despite the narrator's initial imprecations to his 'laziness'; to his sense of cheating, 'just a tapper' (of keys on a lap-top,) he has already acknowledged that, "...great works do not produce themselves. They are created through blood and dedication." The narrator instances such materiality on two other general themes; that of mental health, and that of sex. He might want his Paranoid Schizophrenia underplayed ("just tell people I'm a bit eccentric"), but at the same time acknowledges the condition's integrity:

"Schizophrenia is primarily a sensory misunderstanding.[...] Schizophrenic misreads language. Like a lack of depth perception....."

All these immaterial gifts, alternate perceptions, the elusiveness of the Great Work of Fiction, the addiction to internet porn exact a material price at each turn, sometimes painful, often funny (see the outcome of one particular sexual encounter ending in paroxysms of laughter - not outlined here so as not to spoil its lovely jolt to the reader). Most importantly, all that 'tapping', that thinking, those altered states have risen to something surprisingly concrete, here in my hand, the physical object - a book comprised largely of verse and drawings, a book entitled 'The Watchman', a book whose contents elucidate a perhaps overarching materiality - the question of time. So, not in spite of but because of the preamble there, you have this preamble here. His ends, "Here he his is now. All you need to do is turn the page." Mine says, "For 'The Watchman' review, please read on."

Time is a slippery notion. Just try explaining to a child what time is. My own preference is for what I believe is an Einsteinian theory (although I may be wrong) of time as bent space. Guy Wilgress Hudson's 'The Watchman' is a material evocation of my possibly erroneous notion. The William Blake-like drawings in 'The Watchman', crowd in on the text, often threatening to subsume the written word, occasionally receding to lighter single outlines of mostly human figures, even more occasionally the drawings disappear altogether. Almost always there is the drawn motif of the watch and chain- like the ones our granddads used to hang on their waistcoats. But the 'Watch' of the 'Watch-man' is not just a device for counting down, or up, the minutes (after all a more pragmatic and precise definition of time is ebbing of our lives - the minutes left until the final tick or tock); as the name implies, the 'Man' is 'Watching'. Watching and waiting, two functions of time passing. As the saying goes, though, What are we waiting for? As much as time is inexplicable, it is also inescapable, inevitable. Hudson's work here depends on that inevitability - speaks of a courageous attempt to resist the confines of temporality. It's absolutely right to begin at the end of the work:

"The burning of a midnight lamp
Lights up the tick
On the watch face.
The watchman sees and listens too.
He will groan and go on
About his business.
He handles the lamp with ease
Cradled in his calloused hand."

One hand cradles the light that shows up the time. On the other hand, he's groaning at the inevitability of it all; at the business the other hand absolutely has to attend to. I read 'The Watchman' forwards several times and it felt to me, not with absolute linearity, but nevertheless quite apparent, like a thing written against the forward thrust of time. If you're going to read it, and you should, steal yourself for the experience. It has tentacles. The physicality of the drawings coupled with the wrought (never overwrought) emotion of the poetry cohere into something like the best of overcast days - the warm comfort of beleaguered skies - that being hidden-ness in plain sight, but with the possibility of the sun behind the clouds signalling the so-called 'ray of hope'. I always think the best works of art are those that made you feel like you lived another life for a while, even lives historically distant (think Homer, think Turgenev). In that regard 'The Watchman' achieves. The first time I came out of it was like coming out of a fever dream; not all warm, dark and comforting either - the rays of light are there, not surprisingly on a white pages, devoid of illustration:

"You gave me liberation
A freedom so far unknown
You broke in and broke me out.
Out to life once more with adventure.
To work and toil and party.
All this benefit without effort
So easy you won't ever know."

Still, this is a work in concert with "Diogenes [flown] in from a window" to, no doubt, appal the "Eliot Ladies" who "Come and go/In the room." In this work, Diogenes gets to publicly stick his spunk-stained images on the wall (much in the way of Philp Seymour Hoffman's 'Allen' from Todd Solondz 'Happiness' film), and is "...wearing a dress/Strap-on..." fairly unashamedly, but for "The conversations dried up/Since turning off the phone."

Yes. 'The Watchman' is (inevitably) about relationships too. Between humanity and god, between women and men, between the young and the old, between the US (or just Us) and the rest of the world. Lady Liberty features quite a bit, that imposition and invitation (androgynous by design) proffering her own "midnight lamp" to the lost souls offered solace in "New York New York." It is worth raising Emma Lazarus from the dead:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The economic consequences don't get past 'The Watchman' either:

"[...]
There is no gain in economics

No matter how home economics
Failed to fill me full
Of domestic bliss

The sturdy fat cats on the midnight
Trail
[....]"

And

"Who celebrates record profits
My prophet tell me
This is not good
Do they need to gain
Year on year
To celebrate success
On a business account
That chomp at unrivalled
Magnitude."

There's war and peace too. But I've given away too little already. 'The Watchman' is a work that needs to be consumed as a whole. For only that way can you begin at the beginning, end at the end. Or, more fairly I should say, begin at the end with a surprising turn of events, with a

"[...] head awash with one
Orgasmic oceanic
Smash n grab."

That's what I meant by great works giving you the feeling you lived another life, and the insight truly great writers can bring, sometimes partly in their own words, in this case in an "Orgasmic oceanic/Smash n grab."

Words and illustrations together mind. And matter. Imagine reading Blake without the illustrations. That's perhaps the drawback of this review. I can't give you the illustrations. Although, I hope to have conveyed the cave-dwellings, amorphic, anthropocentric, dark/light visions creeping in amongst the poetry and the poetry creeping out of the said graphics. That watch on that chain reoccurring and recurring like time and time and time again. Like a dream.
Date Added: 04/21/2015 by guy hudson