Ravi Shankar is the author of five books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently the 2010 National Poetry Review Prize winner, Deepening Groove. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited W.W. Norton & Co.'s Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond. He currently co-directs the Creative Writing Program at Central Connecticut State University, and teaches in the Fairfield University and the City University of Hong Kong low-residency MFA programs. He founded and edits Drunken Boat, one of the world's oldest electronic journals of the arts.

On Libation:

“My favorite drink, because of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, is the vodka gimlet.”

A Poem by Ravi Shankar

Route 66 Motels, Photographs (1973)

        balance, wonder, luminosity, method and clarity
        are under the same sky as satire, failure, ignorance
        and fear –John Schott

Over a half-century since The Grapes of Wrath

named the “Mother Road” escape route from

the Dust Bowl to the Gold Mine of California,

just decades since Nat King Cole got his kicks

on Bobby Troupe’s song, but in these flattened

black-and-white contours of stucco haciendas

and concrete teepees sprouting T.V. antennas,

there’s a chord of loneliness shivering the fret-

board of a lost America: vacant if neon, shrunk

down still vast in loneliness, replicated in rooms

identically shuttered, a land of wiry telephone

poles, tractor-trailer cabs and a folding plastic

patio chair, unsat upon, shot through bellows

of a Dierdoff 8 x 10, no longer manufactured. 

Photo by Laura McCullough