Just for today, let's island-hop from Polynesia to our cousins the Micronesians...YAAAAAAAAY! That's right folks: Guam, the Northern Marianas, Saipan, Marshall Islands, and Palau just to name a few. And out of the U.S. territory of Guam comes the award-winning, very outgoing, awesome poet and educator and friend Craig Santos Perez!!!
Craig was kind enough to be interviewed for my blog. I am blessed to be in acquaintance with him. These are 13 fun questions to delve into Craig's outgoing personality as he is placed in the JAMZTOMA SPOTLIGHT. Haha.
1. Sunshine or snow?
The first time I ever saw snow was when I was a child and my family visited Aotearoa (New Zealand). It was also the first time I saw sheep, white as snow. Both the sheep and the snow terrified me, especially since I grew up in Guahan (Guam), where it is too hot for either snow or sheep. Thus, home is the perfect sunshine.
2. Pineapple or banana?
Apple Banana Cream Pie please.
3. Favorite literary character.
4. Favorite Pacific artist/ author.
Brandy Nālani McDougall.
5. Reggae or hip-hop?
Bob Marley & Talib Kweli. All music is poetry.
6. List your all-time role model(s)?
My parents. For many reasons, one of which is that they are voracious readers. My dad reads war, spy, and thriller novels while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom, and my mom reads romance, murder mysteries, and family dramas tucked into bed at night. It does not make sense that I became a poet.
7. Favorite courses in high school and college?
I enjoyed my freshman year at Chief Gadao Academy in Guahan because it was the first time in school that I ever learned anything about my Chamorro culture. Sadly, it was also the last year I would spend in my home island because my parents decided to move to California. At my new high school (James Logan high school in Union City), I most enjoyed the literature courses because I had great teachers: James Kass, Thomas Seaton, and Kami Tomberlain.
I spent many years in college (BA, MFA, PhD), so Iʻll just focus on my undergraduate studies at the Johnston Center of Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands. My favorite literature courses as an undergraduate were 1) Ulysses (an entire course dedicated to Joyceʻs novel) and 2) Dostoevsky (an entire course focused on several novels by Dostoevsky). I also enjoyed all my art courses, from painting to sculpture. I had the privilege to study "abroad" in Florence, Italy, where I studied Italian Renaissance art and literature and gelato. Perhaps the most memorable course I took, "Rites of Passage," required that I spend four days and four nights in the Anza Borrego desert, alone, without food. I received an "A" in that course.
8. Your favorite moment in your poetic career.
Returning home after being away for fifteen years to launch my second book of poems, from unincorporated territory [saina].
9. Your most ultimate dream. Has it been fulfilled?
My most ultimate dream is sovereignty for Guahan and Hawaiʻi and the entire Pacific and thus the opportunity to help create a truly sustainable future for our peoples. Someday.
10. Favorite cuisine?
Chamorro food. Minus the SPAM.
11. What scares you the most?
12. Most embarrassing moment.
That one time I tried to do a one-man hot hula flash mob at the Bank of Hawaiʻi. I have no shame.
13. Personal advice to budding poets of the South Pacific.
Buy my books (no refunds). Read my books (twice if you have to). While youʻre at it, read all Pacific writers from "Micronesia," "Polynesia," and "Melanesia" and across the oceanic diaspora. Read what scholars have written about these Pacific writers. Support Pacific based publishers, such as Ala Press. Listen to Pacific spoken word poets, from Guahan to Hawaiʻi, from Aotearoa to California. Buy their albums. Friend these writers on Facebook. Follow their blogs and tweets. Tell your friends and family about all these wonderful poets.
Learn your culture and your history. Map you aerial and sub-aerial roots. Listen closely to your elders because their stories are your inheritance and responsibility. Listen deeply to your ancestors, as they are trying to speak to you every moment. Listen to your islands and to our shared ocean because they need us now more than ever. And we need each other. Pay attention to the currents of politics, capitalism, militarism, tourism, and colonialism. Stand and fight, in your life and in your poetry. As poets, raise our voices to protect and defend Moana Nui, our sea of islands, our century.
Immerse yourself in living Pacific literature. Come study at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa. So many inspiring Pacific writers teach and study and live here. The Hawaiʻi literary, scholarly, activist, and cultural scene is one of the most vibrant and diverse in the world. You will find yourself opened to being inspired and moved and surrounded.
Write your poems. Memorize your poems. Share your poems. Publish your poems. Slam your poems. Love your poems. To paraphrase Albert Wendt, let our poems guide us towards a new Oceania.
Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guåhan/Guam. He is the co-founder of Ala Press, co-star of the poetry album Undercurrent (Hawai’i Dub Machine, 2011), and author of two collections of poetry: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008) and from unincorporated territory [saina](Omnidawn Publishing, 2010), a finalist for the LA Times 2010 Book Prize for Poetry and the winner of the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry. He is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, where he teaches Pacific literature and creative writing.
To learn more about Craig Santos Perez and his publications, click on the link below:
A huge appreciation and fa'afetai tele lava to Craig Santos Perez for agreeing to do this interview for my blog. I hope my loyal readers from around the world are introduced to this distinct and honorable individual through this post and that they would visit Craig's blog listed above for more information on his poetry.