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About this poet

Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamorro from Mongmong, Guam. In 1995, his family moved to California. He lived there for fifteen years before moving to Hawaii. Perez earned his BA in literature and creative writing in 2002 at the University of Redlands in California and his MFA in poetry at the University of San Francisco in 2006.

Perez has authored three books of poetry: from unincorporated territory [guma’] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2014), winner of the 2015 American Book Award; from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010), winner of the PEN Center USA 2011 Literary Prize for Poetry; and from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008).

Perez’s poetry focuses on themes of Pacific life, immigration, ancestry, colonialism, and diaspora.

In 2010, as part of Resolution No. 315-30, the Guam Legislature recognized Perez as an “accomplished poet who has been a phenomenal ambassador for our island, eloquently conveying through his words, the beauty and love that is the Chamorro culture.” In 2011, he cofounded Ala Press, an independent publisher with a focus on Pacific literature.

In 2017 Perez became the first native Pacific Islander to receive a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship for Poetry. His other awards include the Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange Award, the Emily Chamberlain Cook Poetry, and the Jean Burden Poetry Award.

Perez teaches Pacific literature and creative writing at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He lives in Mānoa.


Bibliography

from unincorporated territory [guma’] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2014)
from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010)
from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008)

Twinkle, Twinkle, Morning Star

in collaboration with my wife, Brandy Nālani McDougall
and our one-year old daughter, Kaikainaliʻi

kaikainaliʻi wakes from her late afternoon nap
and reaches for nālani with small open hands—

count how many papuan children
still reach for their disappeared parents—

using my iphone, i change my facebook profile picture
to a graphic of the morning star flag and share
an article about the grasberg mine— gaping open pit

count how many papuan children
are dying from copper poisoning each year—

kaikainaliʻi watches cartoons on our flat screen tv
while nālani and i watch an online documentary
about west papua #forgottenbirdofparadise

count how many papuan children have watched
their loved ones mounted and shot—

after we turn off the tv and close the laptop—
nālani reads to kaikainali'i a bedtime story:

"Twinkle, twinkle, small hōkū / Shining down on our canoe
Up above the sea so high, / Like a candle in the sky"

count how many papuan children have been extracted
to islamic boarding schools in jakarta—  

"When the ocean waves are black, / When we feel like turning back,
Hōkū shines its little light, / Guiding us all through the night."

count how many papuan children are seeking refuge
across borders only to become forgotten refugees—

"Waves may fall or rise up high, / keep your eyes upon the sky,
Hōkū peeks out in between, / Shining out its steady beam."

count how many hashtags it will take to trend
bleeding black island bodies strip-mined by bullets
crushed into slurry by military boots pumped
through pipelines across poisoned rivers and treeless
lands, shipped overseas and enslaved by our technology—

papuan cousins, imagine someday
we can talk story, chew betelnut, and color
the soil with our spit as our children paint
their faces red and play #papuamerdeka

"Thunderclouds may push and shove. / Rain may pour from up above.
Never fear, our star is strong, / Burning bright the whole night long."

Copyright © 2015 by Craig Santos Perez. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry DatabaseQuoted text by Jane Gillespie, from Twinkle, Twinkle Small Hōkū (Beach House Publishing, 2013).

Copyright © 2015 by Craig Santos Perez. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry DatabaseQuoted text by Jane Gillespie, from Twinkle, Twinkle Small Hōkū (Beach House Publishing, 2013).

Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamorro from Mongmong, Guam, writes about themes such as Pacific life, immigration, ancestry, colonialism, and diaspora.

by this poet

poem
for Kyle & Aunty Terri 
 

Every year, more than a million tourists march
through military museums, memorials, and ghostly
battleships as “Remember Pearl Harbor” echoes
with patriotic fervor. But what if they learned how
to pronounce, “Puʻuloa,” the Hawaiian name

poem

(to my wife, nālani
and our 7-month old daughter, kai)

kai cries
from teething—

how do
new parents

comfort a
child in

pain, bullied
in school,

shot by
a drunk

APEC agent?
#justicefor

-kollinelderts—

poem

My 16-month old daughter wakes from her nap
and cries. I pick her up, press her against my chest

and rub her back until my palm warms
like an old family quilt. “Daddy’s here, daddy’s here,”

I whisper. Here is the island of Oʻahu, 8,500 miles
from Syria. But what if Pacific trade winds

2