Outside the Academy: Drone Poetics with Andrea BradyWednesday, February 27, 2019 @ 7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Join us for a reading with Andrea Brady, as part of our Outside the Academy Lecture Series. She will be reading and discussing her poetry collection The Blue Split Compartments.
The Blue Split Compartments is a suite of poems for the drone age. Composed from chatroom exchanges between pilots and intelligence officers, military policy manuals, pattern of life archives, and accounts by witnesses around the world, it documents drone operations under Obama and Trump. The poem explores prosthetic violence, voyeurism and visuality involved in the use of a technology which is largely regarded as a hobby in the US, but around the world is the most conspicuous symbol of American necropolitics. Constant watching persuades the pilot that he or she is intimate with their ‘object’, a person who is at once reduced to an expendable institutional identity, and an individual recognizable at the level of their domestic routine. Drone operators experience this intimacy as one of scale: feeling themselves to be 18 inches rather than 8000 miles away from the target, they are more likely to respond with lethal force. But the absence of risk for the pilots, who operate out of modified shipping containers on American air bases and from the relative safety of compartmentalized psyches, has also led to them being described as castrated fighter pilots. Meanwhile, the drone can see and not hear: but on the ground, where entire countries have been turned into ‘open air prisons’ by constant surveillance, the buzzing of the drone can be heard and not seen, inducing profound trauma and changes to social life.
The poem laces the ethics and logistics of drones with reflections on the myths and mechanics of violence, intimacy, masculinity and desire. It takes as its form the ‘kill box’, a legal innovation which allows the military to coordinate fire, and is three-dimensional and spontaneous rather than a formal, two-dimensional ‘front’. These kill boxes can be as large as the FATA, or as small as your body, and will be increasingly important as drone nanotechnology develops. They, and the poem, have four states: Open, Activated, Frozen, and Closed. The Blue Split Compartments explores the possibility that committed poetry is also a kind of killbox: a mobile space which can be opened and closed at will from the safe compartments of literary form. Instead of singling out arbitrary objects to enact its critique of militarised violence, the poem puts its own operator in the heads up display, and attempts to imagine what happens when the object looks back.
This program is part of a two-part double header evening of lectures by academics presenting their work outside of and academic setting. This program will be preceded by a short meet and mingle with Andrea Brady. Light refreshments will be served. Guests are also encouraged to come early at 6 p.m. and enjoy Prof. Noël Carroll’s discussion on the cultural modes of Sex and the City. RSVP for Prof Carroll’s program here.
Andrea Brady‘s books of poetry include The Strong Room (Crater, 2016), Dompteuse (Book Thug, 2014), Cut from the Rushes (Reality Street, 2013), Mutability: Scripts for Infancy (Seagull, 2012), and Wildfire: A Verse Essay on Obscurity and Illumination (Krupskaya, 2010). She is Professor of Poetry at Queen Mary University of London, where she runs the Centre for Poetry and the Archive of the Now. She is also co-publisher of Barque Press. In 2017-18 she is a fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, where she is finishing a book on Poetry and Bondage.
Moderated by Dan Kubis, associate director of Pitt’s Humanities Center and host of the Being Human podcast.