David Shook is out to prove once and for all that the pen is mighter than the
sword drone. The Los Angeles-based poet and filmmaker hopes to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter to buy a flying drone to cruise over cities and rain down antiwar poems on the people below. He calls it the Poetry Drone.
If the "Po Dro" is fully funded—and it needs some help first; as of writing, and with 20 days to go, Shook had raised $351 of a $10,000 goal—the aircraft will drop poem bombs at literary and arts events around the world.
Lest the environmentalists out there worry, the plan is to print the poetry on biodegradable paper with soy ink, and then impregnate the pages with wildflower seeds—if left behind on fertile ground, the fruits of Shook's unmanned aerial poet will bloom into beautiful flowers. Or so the thinking goes.
Rest assured it's also perfectly safe for humans. According to the Kickstarter page, the poems will be printed on "semi-rigid bookmarks shaped to slow their descent enough to be safely caught." And the drone itself? Think of it as a cross between the relatively cheap, fixed-wing Arduplane-AP-X foam glider and the SteadiDrone H6X RTF, a pricier hexacopter arguably better designed for poem-dropping.
Clearly Shook has thought of everything—except the poems themselves, which aren’t even written yet. They would be individually commissioned by the world’s top poets, and then collected and published in The Poetry Drone Anthology by the end of the year.
Since 2004, between 2,537 and 3,581 (including 411 to 884 civilians) have been killed in America's ongoing drone war over Pakistan, including four Americans. Many artists share Shook's belief that, in his words, it's time to “explore the political responsibility of poets, artists, and citizens."
Shook's Po Drone is part and parcel of a rising drone-as-art subculture. Motherboard has reported on drone cinema—stunning films shot from hexacopters; Dronestagram—Instagramed images of drone strike regions; Drones of New York—an upcoming museum exhibit of artists imagining drones in New York City. And let's not forget that time 49 technicolor quadrocopters performed a synchronized fly-dance over Austria.
Drone art can be seen as a form of reappropriation—taking back something that in the popular consciousness is so often a symbol of death and destruction and making it something beautifully provocative, even hilarious. Or it can be form of protest, much like Shook's stance against warfare, manned or unmanned.
Pakistani artist Mahwish Chishty, who paints chilling images of drones in Pakistan's colorful, traditional truck-art folk genre, imagines something in between. "I don't know if I am glorifying it. I just want people to talk about it," Chishty recently told Mother Jones. "At the same time, it has some kind of beauty to it. I am also looking at them as objects, and not as much as war machines."
Whether Shook's campaign to bring that kind of beauty to benign objects that more and more are tweaked into spy- and kill machines remains to be see. Yet we can all probably agree that the idea alone is louder than a Hellfire missile.