Category Archives: Poetry

The Poetry Drone: Prophecy for Our Time

The Poetry Drone (known lovingly as the “Po Dro”) is a creation of LA-based poet, David Shook. In a modern-day effort to “beat swords into plowshares” Shook is seeking to arm a drone with—not bombs—but anti-war poems printed on flower paper. The project’s received considerable media attention with write ups in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Vice, Huffington Post, and even a mention in The New Yorker. It is what Dave Harrity of Antler calls “a contemporary act of prophecy, though it professes no religious affiliation.” In his brief interview with Shook, Pedrito Ortiz finds out where Shook got the inspirationally “ludicrous” idea for this project, as well as his take on poetry and politics. To learn more, visit the Kickstarter page here.

—The Editors

Poetry-DronePedrito Ortiz
How did you come up with the idea for the poetry drone?

David Shook I had just translated an interview that Nathalie Handal did with the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, who I admire a lot. In it he discusses his work with the Colectiva de Acciones de Arte, a collective he was a part of under Pinochet, which eventually led to two of his most inspiring projects: writing a poem with a plane in the sky over Queens, and bulldozing another into the Atacama desert in Northern Chile. The next day, I was meeting with a visual artist, my friend Laura Peters, to discuss an installation I had commissioned her to build for a festival, an enormous nose made of foam, about 2’ by 3’, to promote Mario Bellatin’s Shiki Nagaoka. We were discussing the nose, brainstorming other unconventional methods of promoting literature, when our waiter, another friend of mine, approached. He listened in for a second before offering his own seemingly ludicrous suggestion: a poetry drone. He might have been stoned. I left the meeting and immediately went home to google drones, to see if the idea was even possible, affordable, legal. A couple days later I launched my fundraising campaign.

PO Do you consider yourself a political poet? Continue reading

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Poem: “What is Open”

Though he abandoned his poetry following the cartel murder of his innocent 24-year-old son, Javier Sicilia’s mystic poetry remains an important fixture in contemporary Mexican poetry. His last book of poems, Desert Triptych, won the Aguascalientes Prize for Poetry in 2009, and features the prophetic voice that Sicilia has harnessed during his Caravan for Peace, now making its way through the United States (read “Bi-National Caravan for Peace,” by Ryan Bell and David Shook in The Huffington Post). Reflecting Sicilia’s lifelong commitment to socially engaged Catholicism—the poet was a close friend of Ivan Illich during his time in Cuernavaca—Desert Triptich echoes classic mystics like St. John of the Cross, emulates and reworks the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, and converses with poets from Dante to Celan to Eliot. The following poem comes from the second section of the literary triptych, called The Night of What Is Open. —DS

What Is Open

To us, who walk upright,
as if the fate of our condition would be covered by that gesture,

not the animal that advances low to the ground toward what is Open,
a backwards and forwards in the happening of the infinite;
not the tree that rooted
—its mouth within the earth,
its sex against the wind—
inhabits the pure space of your immobility;
not the angel, too perfect in its beauty,
an essence made of space,
bird of light suspended in the eternal;
but we who advance gropingly
between heaven and earth, terrified of death,
hollowed with holes; 

to us, viatores,
—who yearn for both the earth and the heavenly
and aren’t at peace with ourselves—,
only love saves us from our anxious flight forward,
as if in the contours of what is loved what is Open would close
and the hollowness of flesh would find repose in what is created
and would not see its death,
but rather a proclaimed beyond,
contained within the limits of the body.

Lovers know it,
those, so close to one another, who
look amazed into the Openness that their eyes discover in their eyes.
But neither one or the other cross into it
and they return to the world.
Could it perhaps be the fear of the infinite call
or the sweet nostalgia of forever residing in what is created
that never restrains them?
Or maybe that is our place,
the spot of the eternal that corresponds to us:
to contemplate and feel the infinite wrapped in the flesh,
in that mutual giving of one to the other,
while the slow flight toward what is Open allows us to inhabit the duration,
that already but not yet
that the lovers live at grazing skin;
that eternal presence
that makes us present in ungraspable time
like a tenuous crack
in the porcelain alb of the Open.

translated from the Spanish by David Shook

Poem © Javier Sicilia and Ediciones Era, 2011. Translation © David Shook, 2012.

Javier Sicilia was born in Mexico City in 1956. He is one of Mexico’s most important writers, and has won prizes for his fiction, poetry, and screenplays. He’s written columns for the progressive magazines Proceso!, Siempre!, and La Jornada Semanal. His most recent—and last—book of poetry, Desert Triptych, won the Aguascalientes Poetry Prize in 2009.

David Shook is a poet and translator who grew up in Mexico. His poems, translations, and essays appear widely. More at davidshook.net.