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With the Saina as his figurative vessel—a ship built in modern times as an exact replica of the swift outriggers designed and sailed by the Chamorro people until banned by their oppressors—Craig Santos Perez deftly navigates the complexities in his bracing exploration of the personal, historical, cultural, and natural elements of his native Guam and its people. As the title—from unincorporated territory [saina]—suggests, by understanding where we are from, we can best determine where we are going. Perez collages primary texts and oral histories of the colonial domination and abuse brought by the Spanish, the Japanese, the United States, and the capitalist entertainment/travel industry, with intimate stories of his childhood experiences on Guam, his family’s immigration to the US, and the evocatively fragmentary myths of his ancestors. Resonant too in Perez’s title, and throughout this work, is this poet’s evocation of the unincorporated and unfathomed elements of our natures, as he seeks the means to access an expansiveness that remains inexpressible in any language. Perez is not afraid to press language beyond the territories of ‘the known’ as he investigates both the anguish and the possibilities that horizon as one attempts to communicate the spoken and unspoken languages of one’s native people, while fully appreciating the suffering inherent in every word he will use that is pronounced in, and thus pronounces, the language of their oppressors.
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CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ, a native Chamorro originally from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam), has lived in California since 1995. He is the co-founder of Achiote Press and author of several chapbooks, including constellations gathered along the ecliptic (Shadowbox Press, 2007), all with ocean views (Overhere Press, 2007), and preterrain (Corollary Press, 2008). His first book, from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press in 2008) has been taught in universities across the United States and the Pacific. His poetry, essays, fiction, reviews, and translations have appeared in New American Writing, Pleiades, The Denver Quarterly, The Colorado Review, Sentence, and Rain Taxi, among others.
And, Craig is the recipient of this year’s Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange Award. He will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to give a public reading. Juan Felipe Herrera was the judge for poetry. His work was chosen from a pool of 712 poetry entries.
Craig received a B.A. in Art History & Literature from the Johnston Center of Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands (2002) and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco (2006). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Ethnic Studies at University of California, Berkeley, where he studies Native American & Native Oceanic Literature and Theory.
Since 2007, Craig has been involved with Famoksaiyan, a Chamorro grassroots activist organization. In 2008, he joined a delegation of Chamorro activists and testified on the negative cultural, environmental, and political impact of U.S. militarization on Guam at the United Nations' annual meeting of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) in New York City. The delegation also met with representatives from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Argentina, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
You can find Craig online at craigsantosperez.wordpress.com.
“from unincorporated territory [saina], Craig Santos Perez’s second book of poems, is a touching and loving tribute to his grandmother, Milan Martinez Portusach Santos Reyes. As a central figure in his poems, “Grandma Santos” comes across as one of the more powerful metaphors and realities of survival in Guam: the sakman, or the long-range voyaging canoe. Perez and Santos thus embark on an oceanic journey from Guam to California, where they now reside, reflecting on a shared past of colonial violence and on an equally fraught and sometimes uncertain present. In the end, Grandma Santos assures Perez that her sakman, their sakman, will always be a vessel through which generations of Chamorros may navigate their respective futures. Saina and Sakman, Perez and Santos. These are the threads which link the poetic forms presented in Craig Santos Perez’s latest collection, which, to be sure, is a pleasure to read.” (Dr. Keith L. Camacho, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles)
“Saina reinscribes the contested territories of home(land) with shards of language and form. Fragments of English and Chamoru, Spanish and Japanese, trace violent routes of empire, colliding, weaving, one into the other. With admirable craft, Craig Santos Perez stitches together patches of jagged memory – Grandma and Grandpa forced to bow to Japanese soldiers; tradition – ‘flying proas’/ sea-going outriggers, fastest in the world; and the continued trauma of US military occupation in Guam -- into a garment of uneasy identities so characteristic of our neo/colonial moment. With its powerful, discordant music, Saina is a warrior response to the ‘call’ of empire. Bravo.” (Prof. Caroline Sinavaiana, author of Alchemies of Distance University of Hawaii, Manoa)
“from unincorporated territory [saina] continues Craig Santos Perez’s epic investigation of Chamorro culture, language, and identity. It is by turns ferocious and elegiac, historical and lyrical; it is a book of generations, of sedimentary language, of the ability and power to say “us,” of how a human family might actually be claimed. Filled with tidal spaces, broken by waves, garlanded by islands of brilliant attention and sub-surface groundings, Perez’s poem convenes an oceanic poetics. But if the indigenous canoe that sails through the book is freighted with immigration and emigration, colonialism and national piracies, its real cargo remains cultural authority and the incontestable wonder of origin. Ancestors weep and dance to have generated such creative reclamation as this poem achieves. Perez inherits, inhabits... and a great poem flows...” (Aaron Shurin, author of King of Shadows)
“In from unincorporated territory [saina], Craig Santos Perez––whose very name sounds a poem–– sends his reader out on a simultaneously sturdy and yet amorphous canoe, to discover, explore, circle and espy the oldest and most continuous global story: the imperialist, systematic destruction of a culture. Perez takes the water, sky, land, lost legends, ancestral spirits, and survivors of the Pacific Islands into his own tongue, complicated by “torrents of English,” enlivened by Chamoru. This is a great seafarer’s tale of our own lost oceans, lost no more. Reading this book, I was disabused of the notion that ‘poetry does nothing’.” (Gillian Conoley, author of The Plot Genie)
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