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L.A. poet at work on an artful drone strike

Posted: June 26, 2013 - 11:01pm

LOS ANGELES — There are several poetry projects on offer on Kickstarter, the crowd-sourcing site popular with artists and other dreamers. Most involve organizing readings and publishing first books and anthologies. The poet David Shook is much more ambitious than that.

Shook, a Los Angeles poet and translator who grew up in Mexico City, is fluent in English and Spanish: He’s translated the otherworldly poetry of the late Roberto Bolano, among others.

Now he wants to launch a batch of antiwar poems in the kind of aircraft often used to wage war: a drone.

The idea behind “The Poetry Drone“ is to buy an actual flying drone — which can be had for as little as $5,000, Shook says — and fly it over some populated place and have the drone rain poems (instead of bombs) on unsuspecting people below.

“The Poetry Drone is exactly that: a drone for the deployment of specially commissioned poems by leading US and world poets, which aim to bring the US military’s covert drone operations into the spotlight,” Shook writes in a statement he calls “Beating Drones into Plowshares.”

The larger aim, he says, is to promote discussion about drone warfare and ”to humanize their victims, and to explore the political responsibility of poets, artists, and citizens.”

Shook is also a filmmaker, and to promote his project he’s put together a video whose aesthetic mimics that of a Cold War newsreel. The video shows civilians fleeing bomb strikes and declares in bold letters “Join Me in Teaching the Wind to Write.”

The U.S. military has employed drones most often in Pakistan, and Shook includes a line by the Pakistani writer Noshi Gilani from a poem called “The Breeze Rewrites”: “Now that the breeze has learnt to write/She can choose to rewrite autumn as spring.”

Shook says his Kickstarter campaign will also fund the production of “The Poetry Drone Anthology,” featuring original poems commissioned to be dropped from the drone.

And lest you think such a project is completely crazy, Shook offers the example of a similar effort, in which thousands of poems were dropped from a helicopter over London last year. Some 100,000 poems were dropped in that “bombing,” which was organized by the Chilean arts collective Casagrande, and which is captured in a stirring video on Vimeo.

The Casagrande action has also dropped poems from the air on several other cities that, like London, have been bombed in the past, including Berlin, Warsaw and Guernica, Spain.

Shook is seeking $10,000 by July 16. As of Tuesday afternoon, 17 people had pledged $521.

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