Servant-Drone_front_coverIn my second interview for In the Booklight, I talk to bruno neiva and Paul Hawkins about their collaborative experimental poetry collection Servant Drone from Knives Forks and Spoons Press…

So, tell me about drones. In the 21st century, we’re all drones (unmanned machines) in a world full of droning noise, right? (Or to put it another way, please tell me about the book title. )

BN: Is it? Well, Paul first came up with the title. Does Davos 2016 ring a bell?

Paul: I’d been following James Bridle’s Dronestagram project and the twitter feed @dronestagram which post the landscapes of Drone strikes; ‘Drones are just the latest in a long line of military technologies augmenting the process of death-dealing, but they are among the most efficient, the most distancing, the most invisible. These qualities allow them to do what they do unseen, and create the context for secret, unaccountable, endless wars. Whether you think these killings are immoral or not, most of them are by any international standard illegal.’ That’s what I think of when I think of the word Drone. That and Spiritualized, The Master Musicians of Joujouka, and bagpipes. Yes, we live in a world of background hum, hiss, purr and whir. A discordant soundtrack; a soothing lullaby to the 21st century rich with possibility, uncertainty, variety, insecurity which can be, in part, de-coded through collaboration.

How did the collaboration part of ‘Servant Drone’ work?

Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins

Paul: I would email bruno a piece of text, a poem. He would respond to that and send me a fresh piece of text. I would respond and send a new piece etc etc. We kept going until we’d amassed 60 or so collaborative poems, a call and response if you like. We then edited them and found we had an exploratory text, a collaborative, experimental book, plotted between Porto and Bristol, which Alec Newman at Knives Forks and Spoons Press kindly published last November. I found the whole process incredibly enervating, exciting and surprisingly easy to do. bruno’s work is evocative, nuanced and perfect for me to work with, against, whatever.

BN: I’d write a poem, e-mail it to Paul and wait for his response. Then we’d change roles. And so on.

As well as reacting to/against each other’s poems, where else did you find inspiration?

BN: I’m afraid I don’t believe in inspiration. I just use all tools I have access to.

Paul: Bristol. Memory. Dronestagram. The City. Rain. Future scenarios of climate change. Fruit and Nut Chocolate. Photographs. Railway stations. Music by Matthew Bourne, Justin Hopper, Sheer Zed, recordings of the World Service radio shows Joe Strummer did. Images from Place Waste Dissent (another book I was working on at the time, about protest to the M11 Link Road extension in the early nineties), in which there are some poems from Servant Drone.

To borrow the words from one of Paul’s poems, who are you? And what rhythms are you slave to?

Paul: A scarred date and the tide.

BN: I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I guess I’m slave to all rhythms around me.

Does poetry still have a job in the world today?

Paul: Yes.

BN: I think not.

And, if so, what is it?

Paul: To make you think.

There’s a poetry bar fight, who wins – sound or meaning? How/why?

Paul: They slug it out toe to toe before collapsing in a heap in slow realisation that they are actually good mates, and were too intoxicated to remember.

BN: I’d rather call a truce instead.

What’s your favourite poem in the collection and why?

Paul: #25; cynical humour.

BN: ‘#23 (hawkins)’. An epistle. Last 2 lines say it all: ‘International Office of More Building/United States of Rome’.

Which piece gave you the most trouble when you were writing it? And how did you solve that?

bruno neiva

bruno neiva

BN: Definitely ‘#1 (neiva)’. It was the very first poem I wrote to the collection and I remember trying a great deal of solutions before I came up with a final version. Like most of my poems featured in ‘Servant Drone’, Gysin’s cut-up technique was the starting point. It was also my first response to a Paul’s poem, a big responsibility and indeed no easy task.

Paul: #17; solved by repeating GET IT ON.

‘Servant Drone’ is out speed-dating, what does it absolutely have to say or do before the bell goes?

BN: Quicksand!

Paul: If you try and fix the flawed, corrupt, wasteful, undemocratic, broken project called capitalism, things will never ever improve. It must be taken apart and destroyed. Do you come here often?

What question haven’t I asked that I should have asked, and what’s the answer?

BN: Well, you could have asked me when I first realised Paul and I could put together a collaboration in book form. I’d answer that I knew it immediately the moment I bumped into 5 of his poems on Stride e-mag. Pure gems, the perfect balance between formal experimentation and political engagement. That’s what I thought back then and still do now.

Paul: Neutrogena fingers, or gravity jelly? The fingers every time.

Servant-Drone_front_coverServant_Drone_rear_coverHow can people get hold of ‘Servant Drone’?

BN: You can either buy it or steal it, it’s up to you to decide.

Paul: From our publishers Knives Forks and Spoons Press or me personally here . It will be launched in Bristol and Porto, Portugal at the following dates/venues:
Saturday March 19: Gato Vadio Rua do rosário, 281 4050-525 Porto 8pm – Bruno & Paul reading
Saturday March 26: venue tbc Bristol – Paul reading only

Thank you, Paul and bruno, for such thought-provoking and interesting answers on ‘Servant Drone’.