David Shook - Photo courtesy of David Shook
Recent Idyllwild Arts (IA) graduate David Shook returns to read his poetry, informed and enriched by his burgeoning career as translator, documentarian and activist. Shook, a 2004 graduate, who has not even attended his tenth-year reunion, will read from his recent works of poetry at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at Parks Exhibition Center on the IA campus. The IA Creative Writing Department is presenting this free event.

Shook’s background, raised as a non-Hispanic in Mexico City because of his father’s work, his exposure to and interest in the struggles of indigenous peoples and their literature both oral and written, and his fascination with language had, long before his arrival at IA, seeded the ground for Shook to become a poet and activist.

Augmenting his poetry, Shook is a major translator for important indigenous writers. “Living in Mexico City is where my impulse for translation began,” he said. “I don’t consider translating a subsidiary act. It is also a creative activity and definitely informs my own writing.” Shook studied linguistics at the University of Oklahoma before completing a master’s degree at Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Shook is also an activist interested in the issues of sustainability and quality of life for third world populations. After studies at Oxford, he worked in community-based development of small-scale agriculture in Burundi, Africa and then surreptitiously filmed a documentary in Equatorial Guinea, a notorious police state. The documentary is about Guinean poet Marcelo Ensema Nsang, who writes in Spanish. Nsang was imprisoned and tortured in the 1970s by the Guinean government because of his political writings and for being a Claretian priest.

Shook’s poetry, translations and criticism have appeared in Ambit, Oxford Magazine, Poetry, PN Review and World Literature Today.