Our Obsidian Tongues

Longlisted for the 2013 Dylan Thomas Prize!

Our Obsidian Tongues has a tough, abrupt, incendiary quality. Its violent palette and its restless formal play—”postcard,” prose poem, epigram, ghazal—are not gratuitous but a response to the turbulent and vivid Mexico it describes. Nature and culture on a collision course: skies filled with volcanic ash and streets ranged by ravenous mutts but also the poverty and desperation behind the drug wars. It’s to the credit of this unusual first collection that these striking features still allow for quieter humour and tenderness. —Jamie McKendrick

This book is a medical chart, a form of diagnosis. —David Huerta

David Shook’s debut collection employs the city as a lens through which to explore the multiplicity of voices that inhabit it, cannibalizing a wide range of his predecessors – from the Classical Nahuatl singers of the Aztec empire to the contemporary poets of Mexico City – to scrape away the city’s grunge and reveal hidden layers of sediment and story.

David Shook grew up in Mexico City before studying endangered languages in Oklahoma and poetry at Oxford. He has translated Roberto Bolaño’s Infrarealist manifesto, indigenous Mexican poetry from the Isthmus Zapotec, and oral poetry by the Burundian Batwa. He served as Translator in Residence at Britain’s Poetry Parnassus at The Southbank, in 2012. There he premiered his covertly shot documentary about Equatorial Guinean poet Marcelo Ensema Nsang. Shook lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the poet and pastor Syd Shook, where he edits Molossus and Phoneme Media.