Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Split This Rock Interviews Martha Collins

Third in a series of interviews with poets to be featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, April 14-17, 2016

By Tiana Trutna

Martha Collins is one of the poets we are honored to feature at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016, April 14-17, 2016. 

Martha Collins’s eighth book of poetry, Admit One: An American Scrapbook (Pittsburgh, 2016), follows White Papers (2012) and the book-length poem Blue Front (2006) in combining  careful research with innovative poetic techniques to explore disturbing aspects of America’s history, including race and racism. Described by the AWP Chronicle as “a dazzling poet whose poetry is poised at the juncture between the lyric and ethics,” Collins has also published four collections of co-translated Vietnamese poetry and (among other books of poetry) Day Unto Day, a 2014 collection of “calendar” poems.

Her awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, and the Siena Art Institute, as well as three Pushcart Prizes, a 2013 Best American Poetry award, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award. Founder of the creative writing program at UMass-Boston, she served as Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College for ten years and as Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University in 2010. She is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about Collins, visit her website: marthacollinspoet.com.
Tiana Trutna (TT): What inspired your commitment to write about race issues?

Martha Collins (MC): I wrote several poems that focused on race in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until I saw an exhibit of lynching postcards in 2000 that race began to be central to my thinking, living, and writing. The postcards were shocking in themselves, not least because they were sent to friends and relatives or saved as souvenirs; but what stunned me most was realizing that the hanging my father told me he’d seen as a kid in southern Illinois was actually a lynching witnessed by 10,000 people, its primary victim—predictably—a Black man. I spent several years researching and writing Blue Front, a book-length poem that focuses on the lynching. But the more I wrote, the more I began to ponder what this had to do with me, a white woman living almost 100 years later. That led to White Papers, which, like the earlier book, includes a great deal of research, in this case into the history of race and racism in the Midwest (where I grew up) and New England (where I live), as well as more personal poems about my own privileged white life.

TT: The current climate of high-profile murders of black and brown lives has brought the deeply-embedded realities of racism to mainstream media and our society’s general conscientiousness. Do these stories trigger and influence your poetry?

MC: Although I wrote a poem dedicated to Trayvon Martin just after the Zimmerman verdict, it usually takes awhile for events or other stimuli to make their way into my poetry: I pondered that lynching for almost a year before I began to write about it. But I just finished the last of twelve month-long poems for which I wrote several lines a day on each day of a given month, at the rate of one per year; the first six were published in 2014 as Day Unto Day. Although it wasn’t my intent when I began, issues like these began to make their way into the poems, and became dominant in the last one, which was written in November 2015 and will appear in the Split This Rock issue of Poetry magazine.

TT: When did you first start thinking about language as a means for social change?

MC: I have always thought about language—or maybe “lived consciously in language” is a better way of saying it: even my child-brain enjoyed playing with words. And I first began to think seriously about social change during the Vietnam War, which was also when I began, tentatively, to write poems. But it took me awhile to realize that poetry would be central to my life, and it wasn’t until the 1990s, when I began working with the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences, that my political and poetic lives came inseparably together.

TT: What audience(s) do you keep in mind when you write and publish your poetry?

I don’t think about audience at all when I’m writing: thinking about audience can lead, for me, to self-censorship, which can be thoroughly paralyzing. I do think about audience when I consider publication, but only in the sense of trying to make sure that whatever I’ve written will not in some way offend or hurt people I have no intention of offending or hurting.

TT: In an interview for Coal Hill Review with Michael Simms in 2012, you said, “I’ve learned that I have to push past the a whole army of mental censors (based on parents, teachers, critics, the culture at large) that tell me I cannot / should not / must not write what I’m writing, whether for aesthetic or moral or some other reasons. It took me awhile, but I finally learned that I’m usually onto something when I hear the censor’s voice.” Can you tell us when you first came to this realization, and how it has influenced your writing sense?

MC: I realized this a long time ago, when I was writing obliquely personal poems. The mental censors in that case were my parents, and my first solution to the problem was to not try to publish my poems at all. But I’ve also experienced aesthetic self-censorship (is that really a poem?)—and when I realized I was going to write about that lynching, it hit me with full force (is it really okay to a whole book about a lynching, especially as a white person?).  By that time, I had learned to “listen” to the censors, who by now have a place in my brain which I can almost physically locate. When the censors say No, I say Aha! and keep writing.

TT: Your reading from White Papers as a featured poet at Split This Rock 2010 was one of your first public readings from the book. Can you tell us little about that reading and the impact it had on your writing and/or view of poetry as activism?

MC: Giving the reading was fabulous in itself: have I ever had a better audience? But the most inspiring thing about that festival (as well as the ones in 2012 and 2014) was being part of a community of like-minded folks—and such a wonderfully diverse community too, in every sense (including the aesthetic) of the word.

TT: You have now written a trilogy (White Papers, Blue Front, and Admit One: An American Scrapbook). Did you intend to write a trilogy and if so, how did it come about?

MC: Somewhere around 2010, I gave a reading in San Diego, which included both Blue Front and the unpublished White Papers. Afterwards, Ilya Kaminsky (thank you, Ilya!) said something to the effect of: You realize you’re writing a trilogy, don’t you? Well, uh, no—and it took me awhile to realize that the stammerings-on-paper I’d made about the 1904 Worlds Fair were going to lead to another book-length project. The new book is more broadly about race than the other two: it focuses on the eugenics movement, which narrowed the conception of racial superiority and targeted “mental defectives” and immigrants as well as people of color. But I was definitely aware of the trilogy idea as the book began to take shape.

TT: How has your experience as professor of creative writing at University of Massachusetts-Boston and Oberlin influenced your writing, if at all? And how do you feel teaching connects to the process and product of your poetry and community building?

MC: Teaching at U.Mass-Boston was a politically and socially educational experience for me. U.Mass has a large percentage of working-class (and working!) students, and was more racially diverse than any place I’d known; these demographics led me to explore and teach more diverse literature than I’d studied in school, and to interact with a more diverse group of people. Teaching also helped nudge me toward writing poetry in a serious way: the more I taught, the more I realized I wanted to be a writer, not a critic who wrote about writers. Since then, I’ve appreciated my teaching affiliations as a way of extending my work into a community of writers and would-be writers. Writing is a lonely activity; teaching writing is something else.

TT: Does your role as a translator of Vietnamese poetry influence and/or affect your writing? And do you see any commonalities in themes?

MC: When I began translating Vietnamese poetry, I was amazed to think that working on poems could in itself be social activism, in this case as a kind of reparation for the Vietnam War that would bring the work and vision of our former “enemies” to the attention of an American audience. I hadn’t yet thought of my own poetry in that way, but I soon began to do so. It took me awhile to realize that one effect of translating poetry has been to give me a model for the research work I’ve done for my recent books: making a document or a newspaper article into a poem is, I think, not unrelated to the process of translating poetry. It’s also been important to become immersed in a language that is so different from European languages that it shakes up one’s sense of how language “works.”  I’m not quite sure how that awareness has affected my poems, though I imagine it has. I’m not sure about themes, either: maybe somebody else could find some commonalities there.

TT: What are you working on now?

MC: This interview! Seriously: I finished the last of those month-long poems in November, which means that I’ve finished another book; what I’ll write next in the poetry department is not at all clear to me. I’m finishing up several prose pieces, as well as a couple of anthologies—one a collection of multiple translations of poems I’m co-editing with Kevin Prufer, the other an anthology of essays about the poetry of the late Jane Cooper. I’m also working, with Nguyen Ba Chung, on another book of co-translations of Vietnamese poems, this one by Tue Sy, a Buddhist monk. But poetry? Nothing yet except—well, we’ll see.

Tiana Trutna is Split This Rock's part-time Administrative Assistant. As a graduate student in a Masters in Library and Information Sciences program, Tiana is passionate about the power of literature and spoken word to empower individuals and build bridges between communities. She also loves reading in the park with a sky full of big puffy clouds and a slice of homemade blackberry pie.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Split This Rock Celebrates the Life & Work of Francisco X. Alarcón, 1954-2016

Francisco X. Alarcón, Feb. 21, 1954 ~ Jan. 15, 2016

Group photo of poets at reading protesting AZ law SB 1070, in 2011 in DC

Split This Rock is among the countless poets, writers, activists and friends who are grieving the loss of beloved Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcón. 

Beyond his award-winning poetry collections and children’s books, Francisco was known for expressing his commitment to human rights through a spiritual poetic voice. In April 2010, along with Odilia Galvan Rodriguez, he created the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070 as a way for poets, artists and activists to share their poetic statements about the racial profiling Arizona state law that targeted immigrants and people of color. 

Francisco teamed with Split This Rock’s executive director Sarah Browning and poet/activist Rick Villar to create what was a tour de force poetry reading at AWP 2011 in Washington DC: A Multicultural Floricanto in Response to Arizona SB 1070, which featured dozens of poets, including Martín Espada, Sonia Sanchez and many others. At the same AWP, Francisco teamed with Split This Rock to create a poetry reading on the Capitol grounds to bring attention to xenophobia. Francisco loved Split This Rock and what it stands for, attended the festivals, and captivated all of us with his loving spirit.

We will find a way to celebrate his life and work at this year’s festival, even as we will deeply miss his passionate presence.

Among the many, many tributes:

Francisco Aragón: A Lesson in Mentorship and Generosity, at Letras Latinas

Rigoberto González: Remembering Friend, Mentor and Poet Francisco X. Alarcón, at NBC News

Joseph Ross: Dark Stones that Give Life, at JosephRoss.net

Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Poetry Books We Love

From the Split This Rock Family:

So many spectacular books of poetry of provocation and witness are now appearing in print each year we can’t keep up. Some of those same books are winning the major prizes and being reviewed everywhere. It’s a stunning shift in the literary landscape and one Split This Rock is proud to have played a role in helping to bring about.

Rather than publish another list of Recommended Books that tries to take stock of the whole field, Split This Rock Executive Director Sarah Browning asked a number of Splitistas to send her the titles of 2015 books they loved which haven’t received the attention their champions think they deserve. We are thrilled to put a spotlight on some gems. 

Special thanks to nominators Francisco Aragón, Lawrence-Minh Davis, Aracelis Girmay, Joseph O. Legaspi, E. Ethelbert Miller, Naomi Shihab Nye, Melissa Tuckey, and Joshua Weiner.

(You can read Recommended Books Lists of 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 on Blog This Rock.)

We urge you to buy from your local independent book store, directly from the publisher (we’ve linked to their websites below), or from Powells.com, a union shop. Remember books, an ancient artform, make great gifts year-round!

Here, Then: Spectacular Books of 2015

Trouble Sleeping, Abdul Ali (New Issues Press)
The Gravedigger’s Archaeology, William Archilla (Red Hen Press)
Ozone Journals, Peter Balakian (University of Chicago Press)

Chord, Rick Barot (Sarabande Books)
The Spectral Wilderness, Oliver Bendorf (Kent State University Press)

Bastards of the Reagan Era, Reginald Dwayne Betts (Four Way Books)
Cover image of Ghost River by Trevino L. Brings Plenty

Ghost River, Trevino L. Brings Plenty (The Backwaters Press)

Redbone, Mahogany L. Browne (Willow Books)
Furious Dusk, David Campos (University of Notre Dame Press)

The Book of Silence: Manhood as a Pseudoscience, Rasheed Copeland (Sargent Press)
Cover image of Furious Dusk by David Campos
String Theory, Jenny Yang Cropp (Mongrel Empire Press)

Honest Engine, Kyle G. Dargan (University of Georgia Press)
Cornrows and Cornfields, celeste doaks (Wrecking Ball Press, UK)
Lilith’s Demons, Julie R. Enszer (A Midsummer Night’s Press)
The Gaffer, Celeste Gainey (Arktoi Book/Red Hen)
Toys Made of Rock, José B. González (Bilingual Review Press)
Life of the Garment, Deborah Gorlin (Bauhan Publishing
Cover image of Lighting the Shadow by Rachel Eliza GriffithsLighting the Shadow, Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Four Way Books)
A Crown for Gumecindo, Laurie Ann Guerrero (Aztlan LibrePress)
Hemisphere, Ellen Hagan (Triquarterly)

The Diary of a K-Drama Villain, Min Kang (Coconut Books)
Ban en Banlieue, Bhanu Kapil (Nightboat Books)
Visiting Indira Gandhi's Palmist, Kirun Kapur (ElixirPress)

Steep Tea, Jee Leong Koh (Carcanet Press Ltd.)
Boy with Thorn, Rickey Laurentiis (University of Pittsburgh Press)
The Darkening Trapeze, Larry Levis (Graywolf)
Life In a Box is a Pretty Life, Dawn Lundy Martin (Nightboat Books)

Yearling, Lo Kwa Mei-en (Alice James Books)
Sand Opera, Philip Metres (Alice James Books)
The Pink Box, Yesenia Montilla (Willow Books)
The Open Eye, Lenard D. Moore (Mountains and Rivers Press, 30th Anniversary Edition)
Cover of My Seneca Village by Marilyn NelsonThe Siren World, Juan J. Morales (Lithic Press)
My Seneca Village, Marilyn Nelson (Namelos)

Silent Anatomies, Monica Ong (Kore Press)
Beauty Is Our Spiritual Guernica, Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, trans. Cole Heinowitz (Commune Editions)

The Same-Different, Hannah Sanghee Park (LSU Press)
She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks, M. Nourbese Philip (Wesleyan University Press, rerelease of 1989 classic, with a foreword by Evie Shockley)

Radio Heart: Or, How Robots Fall Out of Love, Margaret Rhee (Finishing Line Press)
Twelve Stations, Tomasz Różycki, translated by Bill Johnston (Zephyr)

Le Animal & Other Creatures, Metta Sáma (MIEL)
Trafficke, Susan Tichy (Ahsahta Press)
The Yellow Door, Amy Uyematsu (Red Hen Press)

Farther Traveler, Ronaldo Wilson (Counterpath Press)

Crevasse, Nicholas Wong (Kaya Press)

Naturalism, Wendy Xu (Brooklyn Arts Press)

100 Chinese Silences, Timothy Yu (Les Figues Press)


The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Nate Marshall (Haymarket Books)
Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, edited by Paul Nelson, George Stanley, Barry McKinnon, Nadine Maestas (Leaf Press)
Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer, Lynn Melnick (Viking)

Writing Down the Walls: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, edited by Helen Klonaris, Amir Rabiyah (Trans-Genre Press)

Critical Writings

Outside the Margins: Literary Commentaries, Roberto Bonazzi (Wings Press)

I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays, D. Gilson (Sibling Rivalry Press)

Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie (Grand Concourse Press)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Split This Rock Interviews Craig Santos Perez

Second in a series of interviews with poets to be featured at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, April 14-17, 2016

Head shot of poet Craig Santos Perez in a cap

by M. F. Simone Roberts

Craig Santos Perez is one of the poets we are honored to feature at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016, April 14-17, 2016. In addition to participating in the nightly reading series we make free and open to public in the National Geographic Auditorium, Perez will participate in a handful of workshop and discussion sessions during the festival. Registration is now open!

Craig’s most recent book from UNINCORPORATED TERRITORY [guma’] is the third in a likely perpetual series of books about the unincorporated territories of the USs Pacific presence. The first [hatcha], and the second [saina] both consider colonial experience. But, much of [guma]  (Guam) circles around community testimony on the environmental impact statement for a project to develop a US military weapons testing range on what is, for the Chamoru people, the most sacred place on their islands (listen to an interview at Against the Grain).

Perez works in a poetics of the documentary, the collage or intertext, and use of blackouts of existing texts. He creates effects of both textual fragment and historical immediacy. His methods owe a lot to literary Modernism, but Guam is a more post-modern sort of thing. Its a colony once of Spain, then of Japan, and now of the United States. Its the origin  of a huge diaspora, a place of incredible importance to US military and foreign policy -- and its mostly invisible to our sense of what the US is, as well as being very, very small on a map. It is a place that lives mostly in state of what Derrida called erasure (sous rature)

An unincorporated territory is a no mans land, which is not to say that no man is running the place -- it belongs to the machinery of empire. Perezs poetics comes organically from the problem of place and what place means in a region of the world that was integral and whole, and is now other to itself twice over. Surnames pass through colonizer languages. Farmland becomes air strip. Native language becomes economic liability. Imported, processed food replaces traditional diet and culinary practice. Eventually everything revolves around this dominant stranger who wont become part of the place -- and wont leave.       

One of the tensions running through these poems of unincorporated territories is that theyre written from and about places that are still colonies that, in a post-colonial era, exist to further another's colonial ambitions.

Simone Roberts: I want to start with a very personal question. Its not nosiness, but acquaintance-making. Many in the Split This Rock community know very well what it feels like to live as (post)colonial or marginalized persons. But, being Chamoru, and being from Guam, is qualitatively different from these other ways of being and experiences of oppression. What do you understand as the unique qualities of Guams colonial status and the Chamoru who live there?

Craig Santos Perez: Chamorus are one of the most invisible peoples of US empire, partly because we are a small population, partly because Guam is the furthest territory from the US continent, partly because we dont fit into popular images of Pacific Islanders, and partly because we speak English and carry US passports. Being from an unincorporated territoryhas taught us that we are a possession of the US but we are not fully part of the nation. The Chamoru experience is, in some ways, a confluence of other experiences of oppression. For example, Chamorus have experienced a similar history to Native Americans in terms of genocide and missionization and decolonial struggles. Chamorus are similar to other island peoples within US empire (such as Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans) in terms of how we have been shaped by colonization, militarization, and tourism. Chamorus are similar to other immigrant groups in terms of our experience of diaspora, cultural assimilation, and civil rights struggles.

MFSR: Many in the Split This Rock community are not academics, and we put a high value on intellectual accessibility. For readers in and out of the academy, and taking advantage of your talents as a teacher, would you mind describing documentary poetics and how you think it contributes to a poetry of protest and provocation?

CSP: Documentary poetics is a poetry that documents history, culture, politics, etc (think of a documentary film). Often, documentary poetry uses actual documents to tell the story (such as photographs, historical texts, archival material, political tracts, etc). Potentially, documentary poetics contributes to a poetry of protest by giving deeper and broader contexts to whatever the poet might be protesting. For example, if you were writing a poem protesting racist representations of Muslims in the media, you can include actual quotes from the articles (the documents), or you can tell a larger documentary story about Muslims in America. 

MFSR:  I suppose we could ask the same question about experimental poetics (to use a huge umbrella term into which I am jamming many of the modern and postmodern practices). To expand: Experimental poetry gets labeled as apolitical, or insufficiently engaged, because its poetics (indeterminate, collage, ambiguous, juxtaposed, etc) delays and refracts meaning. Rather than experiencing it as allowing meaning to emerge, many readers (and critics) experience it as fractured, chaotic, inert.  But, your poetics puts the lie to this dismissive stance. Why write in this tradition, rather than the more lyric and narrative tradition of poetry of witness and intervention?

CSP: Yes, experimental or avant-garde poetic traditions have a deep history of political engagement (often radical engagements with anarchism, socialism, decolonization, and communism). I write in this tradition because I consider myself a radical poet who is interested in decolonizing and deconstructing empire. That said, I also write in lyric and narrative traditions of witness and intervention, as I believe these poetic traditions have something valuable to offer poets interested in sharing stories of trauma and poems of protest.

MFSR: Beyond some familiar methods of documentary poetics, your books make many gestures outside of themselves that become textured experiences for the reader. Some of your titles are geographic coordinates. We can look those up on maps on the internet, discover a place, rather than be told what it is or how its symbolic in your poem.  the book focuses so much on destruction wrought in Guam, but each section of the book is named for a tool used to build the latte, or stones that either mark sacred places or were  foundations for buildings that elevated them above storm surge. In the lists of Chamoru military dead, you strike out everything but their name, making this person more present than their function for the colonizer. In your recent poems, youre using more hashtags -- sometimes as links to real internet campaigns, sometimes as words, sometimes as fragments that go nowhere. I want first to compliment you on this. Its a kind of profuse minimalism. For me, much of the considerable emotional force of the poems is conveyed this way. These techniques also put the experience of strangeness and dislocation in the foreground for the reader.

So, to turn this into a question: what is the value or strategy of strangeness (which is also discovery) in your poetry? What are the political registers of these techniques?

CSP: Thanks for this close reading, and for your compliment. Yes, I am interested in different poetic techniques that can express, capture, and embody emotions in ways that invite the reader into the meaning making process. This strangeness is defamiliarizing andI hopecreates opportunities for interpretation. Throughout my books, I have referenced urls, Facebook statuses, Google search engine results, and now hashtags to speak to the virtuality of poetry and protest, or how poetry and protest have become so deeply intertwined with the virtual world. To me, this takes the poem from the page to the web, so to speak.

MFSR: In your interview at The Colorado Review, Megan Wilson asks you a brilliant question about the power of poetry. Your response was:

Poetry cannot bring back the dead, nor can it bring back dying languages or cultures. However, I think poetry, and literature in general, is an important site of memory, recovery, resistance, revitalization, resilience, and resurgenceespecially in response to historical, cultural, ecological, and personal trauma. Because the literary is a symbolic space, poetry can inspire and empower us towards real change. There is no guarantee or direct correlation to action, but instead poetry opens up a space of possibility and promise. In this way, poetry is like a prayer that believes in resurrection.

Let me extend this idea a little. So many of your interviews touch on what we call Split This Rock issues,that Im working hard to take this conversation into areas that you havent often been asked to tread. Lets replace resurrectionwith imaginationand world making.”  We want poetry to move us to real change, but I wonder how you feel about its role in imagining what those changes are: what might the other side of the postcolonial moment look like; or, for example, what kind of city will Detroit or Baltimore become as they evolve out of post-industrial wreckage; or, should poetry be a medium in which positive visions are imagined?

In short, is there a vision of a post-colonial Guam, and how does poetry figure in or support that vision?

CSP: As you note, an important aspect of the anti-colonial project is to expose and critique the ravages of colonialism. The decolonial then comes in to recover and revitalize what was lost in terms of native culture, language, history, arts, ecologies, etc. The vision for a post-colonial Guam is one in which Guam is a free, sovereign state, in which the US military de-occupies our land (and that land is once again cared-for and rehabilitated), and the Chamoru people can finally determine our future in terms of governance, natural resource management, education, etc. Poetry can articulate and inspire visions of a sustainable future.

MFSR: I ask because the modes of critique, complaint, protest, or intervention are deeply necessary answers to the sleights-of-hand and commercializing of imperial and domestic forms of state and economic control. The System, for shorthand, needs dismantling, but I worry that we are not also working on ideas and plans and dreams and negotiations of the world and social forms that come next. Its a difficult question, I know, because part of the immigrant and the colonial imagination or mindset is to look back to before -- before the colonizer arrived, before the homeland was left -- its historical. And some of the customs, habits, strategies, attitudes, poetics and artistic forms that we will need in whatevers coming from us do come from these ancestral and even ancient cultures. For you, though, how or should poetry be more than interventionist?

CSP: In many Pacific and indigenous cultures, time is viewed as a spiral so that  we face the futures with our backs, which means we look to the past to teach us how to move forward. This is practical as well, in the sense that ancestral practices will help us deal with modern problems. In this way, the past, present, and future are intertwined. That being said, indigenous futurist writing (such as science-fi, climate-fiction, digital games etc) are becoming more popular because they take our imaginations into the future, which of course is imbued with the ancestral past. While I havent written much futurist poetry, I hope to do so in the future!

MFSR: We are primarily a community of poets, so I want to ask a handful of questions about your process, broadly understood. How do you interweave (or balance) your roles as a father, a husband, a professor, and a poet? Whats your go-to snack or beverage when you write the early drafts? Where do you write? And lastly, whats the most difficult part of revision for you?

CSP: I am struggling with how to fulfill all my responsibilities as a father, husband, professor, poet, activist, editor, publisher, scholar, performer, etc. Obviously, being a father and husband come first, then a professor since that pays the rent, and everything else I try to do a little bit each day so that over time projects actually gets done, even though individual projects take me a long time. Green smoothies and probiotic drinks for poem drafts. These days, I write mostly in bed, while waiting for my daughter to fall asleep. The most difficult part of revision is letting go.

MFSR: What's most lasting in its impression on me is how much power, how much confrontation, and celebration, you include in a poetics of decentering and displacement. There's a kind of self you've developed in these poems who is, of terrible necessity, grounded differently than many other kinds of selves we've seen in history. As poets, we delight in that for you; and as justice activists, we applaud and admire your focused and powerful voice for decolonization and cultural memory on your island and for your people. Thank you.


Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamoru (Chamorro) from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is the co-founder of Ala Press, co-star of the poetry album Undercurrent (2011), and author of three collections of poetry, most recently from unincorporated territory [guma] (2014), which received the American Book Award. His writing explores themes of indigenous identity, militarism, decolonization, food sovereignty, ecological imperialism, migration, and citizenship. He is an Associate Professor in the English Department, and affiliate faculty with the Center for Pacific Islands Studies and the Indigenous Politics Program at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, where he teaches Pacific literature and creative writing.

Perez lists a number of his interviews on his website: craigsantosperez.com. Of them, I was particularly impressed with these:

       Post-Colonial Text (2015)

       Prism Review Literary Journal (see 2010)

At Perezs site, you can also hear some of his poems and see video of him reading.

M. F. Simone Roberts is the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow for Split This Rock. Roberts is an independent scholar of poetics and feminist phenomenology, a poet, editor, and activist. She is co-editor of the anthology Iris Murdoch and the Moral Imagination: Essays and author of the critical monograph A Poetics of Being-Two: Irigaray's Ethics and Post-Symbolist  Poetics. Her poems are coming soon to a journal near you. Descendant of both aristocrats and serfs, she adventures this world with her consort, Adam Silverman.