Upcoming October Performances

October 4th, 2016

Georgetown University

Seminar: 5:30 pm

Reading: 8:00 pm

Washington DC

Poetry Reading with Don Mee Choi

Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice

https://lannan.georgetown.edu/Don-Mee-Choi-Craig-Santos-Perez

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October 7th, 2016

12pm

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT

The Archipelagoes, Oceans, Americas Symposium

Poetry Reading: Craig Santos Perez

http://humanitiescenter.byu.edu/events/aoa-symposium-2/

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October 7th, 2016

4:30 pm

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT

The Archipelagoes, Oceans, Americas Symposium

Keynote Speaker: Craig Santos Perez, “Territorial Struggles in the New Oceania”

http://humanitiescenter.byu.edu/events/aoa-symposium-2/

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October 8th, 2016

7pm

Woodland Pattern Book Center

Milwaukee, WI

Poetry Reading: Craig Santos Perez & Garrett Caples

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October 9th, 2016

10am-1pm

Woodland Pattern Book Center

Milwaukee, WI

Poetry Workshop: Craig Santos Perez, The Poetics of Food, Culture, and the Environment,

http://woodlandpattern.org/events/?event=241

100 Healing Rituals for Chamorros Suffering from Homesickness and Diaspora

This poem is dedicated to every Chamorro child whose left our islands because their parents decided to migrate. This is for every Chamorro who migrated because they lost their job, their land, their house, their faith that things would get better for them. This is for every Chamorro who migrated because they were drafted and/or enlisted into the military. This is for every Chamorro family who moved from base to base because family is just as important as geography. This is for every Chamorro who is deployed far away from their family, may you return home safely and be re-united soon. This is for every Chamorro who migrated for health care, who left because they couldn’t afford to keep traveling back and forth for treatment. This is for every Chamorro who migrated for college, who returned home for the holidays, who excitedly waited for graduation to return home to their families. This is for every Chamorro graduate student writing a thesis or dissertation on Chamorro identity and migration. This is for every Chamorro author writing a novel or poem or song about being off-island Chamorro. This is for every Chamorro who was born in the states, who only know our home islands from pictures and stories told to them by their parents or grandparents who migrated long ago. This is for every Chamorro who migrated for love, who stayed in the states for love. This is for every Chamorro family who can’t afford the plane tickets to take their whole family home for a funeral. This is for every Chamorro family who only hear their parents or grandparents voice over the phone. This is for every Chamorro family who knows that they will never return home to live, that they will always live with their bodies in one place and their hearts in another. This is for every Chamorro who’s still trying to figure out where they belong. This is for every Chamorro who no longer has relatives back home. This is for every Chamorro who returns home only to find that all their friends from the old days have passed away. This is for every Chamorro who has lost touch with their friends and family back home. This is for every Chamorro who wonders what life would have been like if you stayed, if your parents stayed, if your grandparents stayed. This is for every Chamorro who wonders if you will be welcomed home, find a job, be able to afford a house, find love, or find a purpose if you returned home tomorrow. This is for every Chamorro who is seeking out other Chamorros stateside. This is for every Chamorro who organizes and runs a Chamorro group to connect diasporic Chamorros to our culture, language, and people.

  1. Open a can of Spam. Follow your instincts home. 
  2. Make fina’denne and pour it over everything.
  3. Call your Chamorro grandparent(s) and ask them for a story about home.
  4. Read the Pacific Daily News online.
  5. YouTube Jesse Manibusan’s song “Forever Chamorro.” Sing along.
  6. Build an altar using shells, coral, postcards, photos, or other souvenirs.
  7. Call your Chamorro parent(s) and ask them for a story about home. 
  8. Read Guampedia online.
  9. Open a can of Vienna Sausages and a can of Budweiser. Call that dinner.
  10. Google Earth your village.
  11. YouTube Jesse Ruby’s song “Guam take me back.” Follow their voices home.
  12. Make kaddun pika, even if it’s hot outside.
  13. Explore the Chamorro Roots Genealogy Project. Follow this map home.
  14. Close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen.
  15. Open a can of Corned Beef. Cook two eggs, any style. Eat with two scoops white rice, fina’denne, and Budweiser. Call that breakfast.
  16. Read Michael Lujan Bevacqua blog while eating breakfast.
  17. Lather coconut oil over everything.
  18. Read the Hale-ta Book Series. Follow your roots home
  19. Sport your Fokai, Crowns, or Magas apparel!
  20. Call your Chamorro godparent(s), and ask them for a story about home.
  21. Tell your non-Chamorrro friends taotaomo’na stories. Tell your Chamorro friends how your non-Chamorro friends don’t understand taotaomo’na stories.
  22. Read Faye Untalan’s “An Exploratory Study of Island Migrations: Chamorros of Guam” (1984).
  23. Buy the Chamorro-English dictionary on Amazon. Hold on to that moment when you open it for the first time.
  24. If you don’t speak Chamorro, learn a new word of our beautiful and endangered language everyday. Hold each word carefully, as if you were holding the last of our beautiful and endangered birds. 
  25. Youtube K.C. DeLeon Guerrero’s song, “Kustumbren Chamoru.” Dance your way home.
  26. Make red rice.
  27. In order to make red rice, you’ll need to buy achiote. Drive to the closest Asian grocery store. Look for Mama Sita’s powdered achiote from the Philippines, which comes in thin yellow packets. Remember your grandma’s red-stained hands after she harvested achiote seeds from her yard.
  28. Go to the nearest KFC and order red rice and fina’denne. Act surprised and disappointed when they give you a strange look.
  29. Read Tanya Taimanglo’s book Attitude 13.
  30. Go for a hike that ends in a waterfall. Close your eyes and call this place home.
  31. Chew the pugua you’ve been hoarding in the freezer.
  32. Buy a round-trip ticket home for a holidary, wedding, christening, graduation, or funeral. Worry about credit card debt later.
  33. Google “Legends of the Marianas.”
  34. Wear your Chamorro bracelets and let them clang like your grandma used to.
  35. Bump JD Crutch’s song “Bente Uno” really loud on your morning drive to work.
  36. Date a fellow diasporic Chamorro (make sure you aren’t related before going on a second date). Or date a non-Chamorro and enjoy the temporary pleasure of being exoticized.
  37. Listen to Dakot-ta Alcantara-Camacho’s song, “Where you From,” on his All Life is Sacred EP (which you can find on Soundcloud).
  38. Visit the Spam Musuem in Austin, Minnesota.
  39. After the Spam Museum, visit The Herbivorous Buthershop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the first ever vegan butchershop, which was founded by two diasporic Chamorros.
  40. Play bingo.
  41. Fanginge’ every Chamorro elder you meet. 
  42. YouTube Island Trybe’s, “Blow ya Mynd.” Lowride your way home!
  43. Wear your Sinahi everywhere.
  44. Read any book by Peter Onedera.
  45. Get a Latte stone or plumeria tattoo.
  46. Read Robert Underwood’s essay, “Excursions into Inauthenticity: The Chamorros of Guam.” (1985).
  47. YouTube Erica Nalani Benton’s song, “Back to Guahan.” Replay your way home.
  48. Buy a Chamorro language children’s book and imagine your parents reading this book to you when you were a child.
  49. When someone asks, “Where are you from?” Point to the empty space on the map and say, “I’m from this invisible island.”
  50. Cha-cha-cha everywhere.
  51. Youtube Melvin Won Pat Borja’s poem, “No Deal.” 
  52. Recite the “Inifresi.”
  53. Drive to the nearest military base. Close your eyes and imagine Angel Santos and the entire Chamoru Nation flying over the barbed-wire fence.
  54. Just Tabasco everything.
  55. Read Michael Perez’s essays “Pacific Identities Beyond US Racial Formation: The Case of Chamorro Ambivalence and Flux” (2002).
  56. YouTube Jesse Bais’s song, “Guam on my Mind.”
  57. Make chicken kelaguen.
  58. In order to make chicken kelaguen, you must first buy a coconut. Drive to the nearest Asian grocery store. Crack open the coconut at home only to find that it is completely rotted inside. Drive back to the grocery store with your machete. Get into an argument with the Asian owner, who won’t exchange the coconut. Go back to your car and get the machete. Walk back into the produce aisle of the store. Crack open the coconuts until you find a good one. Pay for the coconut, machete in hand. Say, “Keep the change.” Drive off like the most bad ass islander who’s ever lived in an American suburb.
  59. Blame it on the cha-cha-cha.
  60. Buy a round-trip ticket home for no reason. Worry about credit card debt later.
  61. Eat at the Chamorro restaurant and/or food truck that opened in your area. Try not to ruin the meal by comparing the food to your parents or grandparents cooking.
  62. Recite the novena in Chamorro using the rosary your grandma gave you at the airport. If you can’t say the novena in Chamorro, YouTube “Chamorro rosary.”
  63. Read Vicente Diaz’s book, Repositioning the Missionary.
  64. Give chenchule’ every chance you get.
  65. Watch the Muña brothers documentary Talent Town.
  66. Cook Calrose rice. Use your fingers to measure. When you smell the rice steaming, close your eyes and call this home.
  67. Get your clan name tattooed across your back.
  68. Youtube Jack Lujan’s song “Inifresi.” 
  69. Wear your “Prutehi yan Difendi” t-shirt.
  70. Close your eyes and remember the last time you hiked to Pågat. 
  71. Place a Guam or CNMI Seal sticker on your truck and drive on the freeway until another diasporic Chamorro spots you.
  72. Visit the Waikiki Spam Jam in Honolulu, Oahu.
  73. Read Keith Camacho’s book Cultures of Commemoration. Remember what your ancestors survived.
  74. Tell yourself that you will return one day, you just have a few more things to take care of out here.
  75. YouTube Flora Baza Quan’s song “Hagu.” Hail the Queen of Chamorro music!
  76. Go to the closest zoo that houses a Micronesian Kingfisher. Tell the bird, “Soon it’ll be safe enough to return.”
  77. Attend the nearest Liberation Day party, which you can locate using the guamliberation.com website.
  78. Read my poetry books (no refunds)!
  79. YouTube Chamorro Mixed Martial Arts fighters Jon Tuck, Frank “The Crank” Camacho, “Baby Joe” Taimanglo, and Pat Ayuyu. Fight your way home.
  80. Call any one of your Chamorro aunties and uncles. Be thankful to your grandparent(s) for having so many children so that there’ll always be someone to give you a story about home.
  81. Learn how to craft a kulo’. Blow the kulo’ everywhere.
  82. Read Jesi Lujan Bennett’s MA thesis, “Apmam Tiempo Ti Uli’e Hit (Long Time No See): Chamorro Diaspora and the TransPacific Home.”
  83. Youtube Jesse Bais’s song “Uno Hit.” Remember that off-island and on-island Chamorros are one! 
  84. Get “Dandan I Paneretas” stuck in your head all December and air stick dance with an imaginary partner.
  85. Attend the nearest Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.
  86. BBQ everything.
  87. YouTube “Malafunkshun.” Laugh your way home.
  88. Look at your American dollar bills. Find the word, “Gumataotao.”
  89. Read Lehua Taitano’s poetry book, A Bell Made of Stones.
  90. Wear zoris everywhere.
  91. YouTube episodes of Nihi! online and imagine watching them with your parents when you were a child.
  92. Buy a one-way ticket home.
  93. Youtube Johnny Sablan’s song, “Nobia Nene.” Dance with someone you love.
  94. Remember that migration flows through our blood and this is just another stop on our epic itinerary.
  95. Join the nearest Chamorro, Marianas, Sons and Daughters of Guam, or Hafa Adai Club in your state. If there are none, start your own Chamorro club in your church, community center, military base, high school, or university.
  96. Attend the Chamorro Cultural Festival in San Diego. Call this gathering home.
  97. Build a Guma’ Chamorro in Balboa Park.
  98. Shout, “I exist! I exist! I exist!”
  99. Whisper, “mahalang,” the only word built to carry all this longing.
  100. Drive to the ocean. Take off your zoris and step into the salt water. Return your tears to the sea, where they belong. Close your eyes, and call your body home.

I’m teaching an online workshop!

CULTURE, FOOD, POLITICS, AND ECOLOGY: AN ONLINE WORKSHOP BY CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ TO BENEFIT OMNIDAWN PUBLISHING

Sign up now! Tuition is $750 ($650 of which is tax-deductible) and is fully donated to Omnidawn Publishing, a 501(c)(3) fiscally sponsored project of the 2430 Arts Alliance.

Some partial scholarships available. Write to Rusty Morrison regarding this.

All applications due by Saturday, January 2 on a first come, first served basis.
Class limit: 10
Decisions will be made by January 5th
Tuition due by Tues January 5th

Craig Santos Perez will be leading an online workshop: Culture, Food, Politics, and Ecology, to benefit Omnidawn Publishing.

The meeting times are every Sunday, 10a-12p pst, for 5 weeks,
from Jan 10, 2016 – Feb 7, 2016.

Each week, for the first 20 minutes of class, there will be one guest poet. They will will share their experiences in writing poetry in relation to that week’s subject, that week’s realms of relation.

The five weeks’ subjects & guests will be

Jan 10: Ecopoetics: Angela Hume

Jan 17: Writing culture, writing family: Terrance Hayes

Jan 24: Writing poetry of witness: Myung Mi Kim

Jan 31: Writing food and sustenance : Ewa Chrusciel

Feb 7: Writing with documentary source texts: Camille Dungy

Rusty Morrison, Omnidawn’s co-publisher, will be an active member of the class each week, as support to Craig, and as another voice engaging in the exciting conversations.

We will begin with an interactive conversation/presentation from the guest poet. Guests will speak casually, with candor, sharing ideas, insights, challenges regarding this aspect of their writing. Guests may be reading some writing/poetry of theirs that aligns with the week’s arena of thought–in order to talk about the generation of that writing in this context.

After the guest poet is finished, Craig will give a presentation on the week’s topic, and the poets who are students in the class will participate in an engaging conversation with Craig about that week’s ideational landscape.

Then Craig will lead a workshop discussion of a poem from each of the class members. Rusty will also contribute to this discussion. Craig is an amazing teacher: serious, friendly, knowledgable, deft at offering sharp acuity and compassionate insight into the poems workshopped.

The tuition is $750 ($650 of which is tax-deductible). All proceeds go to Omnidawn Publishing, a 501(c)(3) fiscally sponsored project of the 2430 Arts Alliance.

To apply for the class:
please send a five page packet of poems to both Rusty Morrison at rusty@omnidawn.com & Craig Santos Perez atcraigsantosperez@gmail.com by January 2nd. Decisions will be made by January 5th. Tuition is due on January 5th.

Omnidawn Publishing is very grateful to Craig Santos Perez and to all of the poets who are donating their time to this workshop.

Dr. Craig’s Poetry Excellence Awards Go To…

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About ten years ago, I wrote a blog critiquing how all the major poetry awards were going to white poets. It was not a unique insight, but more an expression of institutional racism.

This year, however, nearly all the major poetry awards went to writers of color. Check out this list:

2015

  • Pulitzer Prize: Gregory Pardlo
  • National Book Award: Robin Coste Lewis
  • National Book Critics Circle Award: Claudia Rankine
  • American Book Award: Arlene Biala & Craig Santos Perez
  • Pen Center USA award for poetry: Claudia Rankine
  • PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry: Saeed Jones
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize: Claudia Rankine
  • Wallace Stevens Award: Joy Harjo
  • Walt Whitman Award: Sjohnna McCray
  • Kate Tufts Discovery Award: Brandon Som
  • Lannan Literary Awards: A. Van Jordan, Layli Long Soldier, Philip Metres
  • US Poet Laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera

There are many more fellowships, grants, prizes that were given out this year, and many were awarded to poets of color.

Why?

Some say it is because of racial nepotism, since today there are many more poets of color who are judging literary awards.Others say it is the result of literary affirmative action and/or historical guilt. Others are adopting fake ethnic names & bios so that they have a better chance of winning an award. You are sooo lucky, they say, because you have soooo much trending trauma to write about! Others are saying: enjoy because it will never happen again. While others are saying, will you finally quiet down now and get over it.

But Dr. Craig says: it’s about damn time! this is what a level playing field looks like! we should still burn down the system but in the meantime let’s recognize our excellence!

California Love Poetry Tour

For all my friends, fans, haters, and stalkers: I will be in northern California for a few performances and the American Book Award Ceremony. Hope to see you:

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Friday, October 23, 2015

UC Berkeley

554 Barrows Hall

Conversation 4:00pm

Reading and Reception 5:30pm

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

American Book Award 2015 Ceremony

San Francisco Jazz Center 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Joe Henderson Lab, 201 Franklin Street (at Fell)

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Stanford University

Reading 5:15 pm

The Terrace Room, 4th floor, Margaret Jacks Hall (Bldg 460)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UC Davis

Reading 7:00pm

126 Voorhies

berkeley reading

Stanford reading poster

Davis reading

Dr. Craig’s 11-Step Program to Curing “Mainly White MFA” Sickness

Does your MFA program suffer from “Mainly White MFA” sickness (symptoms include few to no students of color)? If yes, this program is designed to bring some healthy color to your department or your institutional racism back!

Step 1: Funding. Offer full or reasonable funding packages. Writers of color no longer want to be part of your debt plantation.

Step 2: Hire. Hire faculty of color (who should comprise at least half your faculty). Student writers need mentors who understand how to write about racialized experiences and how to survive and succeed as a writer of a color.

Step 3: Retire. Incentivize retirement for the mediocre white faculty that you hired 20 years ago, who are at best completely out of touch with multicultural literatures or, at worst, racist (you know who Iʻm talking about). If they refuse to retire, require “literary diversity training” under the guise of “mandatory faculty development.”

Step 4: Require. Every MFA program should have at least one required literature course in “Multicultural and Indigenous literatures” and at least one required writing workshop in “Ethically Writing Race and Culture.”

Step 5: Speak/Perform. Every MFA program should have at least one required course in performance and spoken word, and should hire at least one Spoken Word and/or Performance faculty. You have ruined the literary reading by producing a surplus of writers who have no idea how to read their work aloud.

Step 6: Community. Every MFA program should have a community engagement requirement/component. Offer tuition remission or GAships for semester-long community engagement projects. 

Step 7: Civics. Every MFA program should have a civic engagement requirement/component. Study protest literature and bring your students into the streets, into the legislature, into the public sphere. Offer tuition remission or GAships for semester-long for literary projects that engage political, social, or environmental justice issues.

Step 8: Invite. Half your reading series should feature emerging and established writers of color. I will give you a discount on my reading fee if you mention this program. 

Step 9: Brochure. Be honest in your brochure. Don’t put the only 2 people of color in your MFA program on every page of your brochure/website. Reveal the racial demographics of your faculty and student body. This will help you realize how much work you need to do.

Step 10: Partner. Partner with the many organizations that have a history of supporting writers of color, including Cave Canem, Kundiman, Kearney Street, Asian American Writers Workshop, VONA, Canto Mundo, IAIA, Pacific Tongues, Youth Speaks, Brave New Voices, Split this Rock, Urban Word, and more. Offer scholarships, featured readings, special issues in your program literary journals, etc. 

Step 11: Accept. Accept the fact that you must change your program. Accept that you have not done enough to support writers of color. Accept that it will take time to rebrand and rebuild trust. Accept that you may not be ready for us. Accept that the passion, fire, and talent of writers of color might burn your program down. Accept that only we can help you rebuild this broken system. 

Dr. Craig’s 15-Step Program to Cure the “Mainly White Room” Poetry Sickness

Does your literary series suffer from “Mainly White Room” sickness (symptoms include mostly white audiences at poetry events)? If yes, this 15-step program is guaranteed to bring some healthy color to your events or your institutional racism back!

Step 1: Name. Make a list of 50 poets of color in your city and state. If you can’t name 50 poets of color without asking Facebook, you should not be curating a literary series. Spend a year reading us instead of trying to curate us.

Step 2: Attend. There may be a literary series in your area that is organized by poets of color and that does not suffer from “mainly white room” sickness. Attend the series for a year. Pay attention and learn how to respect protocol.

Step 3: Group Line-up Quantum. People of color are more likely to attend group readings because we value community. If you schedule 4 readers, make sure at least 3 of them are poets of color. This quota system will help you resist your unconscious urge to include only white poets in your reading series (it’s not your fault).

Step 4: Time. Give all poets equal time.

Step 5: Order. Do not have poets of color “open” for the “featured” white poet. 

Step 6: Intergenerational. Include poets of different generations. Poets of color value our elders and youth. Warning: may induce grandparent/grandchildren poems.

Step 7: Food. I’m not talking about cheese and crackers. Think rice and grilled meat. Vegetables are optional, but if included make sure they are cooked. Warning: if you have an ethnic restaurant cater your event, make sure it does not appear thematic (i.e. if you have a Pacific islander reader, he might be offended if you serve a Hawaiian luau and sliced pineapples).

Step 8: Venue. Ask yourself: will poets of color be pulled over while driving in this neighborhood? Will they be harassed on the street? Will the patrons of this bookstore think they are trying to steal poetry books? If yes, change your venue.

Step 9: Slam. Slam and spoken word poetry are the most popular forms of poetry events for a reason! Make sure you include at least one slam poet of color! Bonus: choose a white slam poet for your one white poet slot (they write the most conscientious poems about race and whiteness)! 


Step 10: Boredom. Avoid boring poets, especially the intentionally boring and uncreative poets (you know who I mean).

Step 11: Racism. Avoid racist poets, especially those who claim to be anti-racist but their poems actually replicate racism (you know who I mean).

Step 12: Aesthetics. Do not organize your series towards a specific aesthetics (unless its slam). Poets of color appreciate a diversity of fresh styles.

Step 13: Posters. Design cool posters. If your poster/flyer looks lame, it’s a signal that your reading series is probably lame too.

Step 14: Money. If your series is part of an institution, make sure you offer honorarium. While this won’t make up for past crimes, it’s a start.

Step 15: Introductions. When introducing us, do not comment on our hair or our phenotypes. Do not ask if we have white heritage (if we don’t discuss that in our poems, there’s a reason)! Do not comment upon how “surprising” our work is, or how we “represent” a certain kind of “experience.” Just read the bio we sent you and get out the damn way.

Dr. Craig’s 12-Step Program for White Poets Contemplating Ethnic Fraud

Are you a white poet writing mediocre poems that are constantly rejected? Do you feel cheated out of your entitled publications? Do you find yourself desperately reaching for an ethnic pseudonym?

If you answered yes, Dr. Craig’s 12-step program is designed to help you write like poets of color without committing ethnic fraud. This program is guaranteed or your privilege back!

Step 1: Read. You’ve probably spent most of your life reading white poets. Spend a year reading only poets of color. You will learn how ethnic writing is diverse and exceeds all stereotypes and expectations.

Step 2: Listen. A major thread of ethnic poetry is spoken word. Try listening to one poetry video every day. Hear our voices.

Step 3: Attend. If there is a poetry event in your town featuring poets of color, support the community and bring a dish just in case it’s a potluck.  

Step 4: Culturize. Write about white culture–your customs, values, and practices. If you are not familiar with your culture, research: “American.”

Step 5: Genealogize. Write about your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Talk to them. Do research. Travel to Europe, dig for deeper roots. Write about the ancestors you admire and are ashamed of. (Avoid the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library).

Step 6: Eat. Write about your people’s foods, what you ate growing up, what symbolic meanings foods have to you. Play with your food poetry: write a humorous ballad about white bread, a villanelle about vanilla, a pantoum about potatoes, etc. 

Step 7: Migrate. Write about moving, letting go, saying goodbye. Even small migrations can be traumatic. Write about larger settler movements and their consequences. 

Step 8: Speak. Write about the linguistic nuances, accents, or dialects spoken in your house. Write about your experience learning English, learning Silence. 

Step 9: Historicize. Write about how history has shaped your family and your culture. Write about major and minor historical figures.

Step 10: Politicize. Write your political opinions about the hot political topics in the United States and around the world. Write with one fist raised to the sky. 

Step 11: Ecologize. Write about your relationship to the natural world and other-than-human species. Write about how climate change and environmental degradation affect you.

Step 12: Humanize. Write about your name. Your real name. Write with passion, fierceness, and integrity. Write to inspire and empower others. Write towards justice, truth, and dignity.

Letters to Best American Poetry

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Dear David Lehman,

Because of your shameful decision to publish Michael Derrick Hudson’s poem of ethnic fraud, I will not purchase a copy of this year’s anthology. You should pulp the current version, withdraw the poem, and reprint the anthology with an apology.

p.s. If by some nepotistic miracle a future poem of mine is selected for your anthology series, I will not give you permission to re-publish it.

Dear Sherman Alexie,

I am disappointed in you. You spent so much time creating inane editorial rules that you forgot the most important rule of being an editor of color:

Do Not Allow Acts of Literary Racism to Occur on Your Watch.

The reason why we advocate for people of color in positions of editorial power is not about nepotism, it is about protecting against institutional racism, which has shaped the literary world for too long.

Institutional racism is as common as oxygen. 

In the past, you have critiqued Asa Earl Carter, Barbara Kingsolver, and mascots. While you couldn’t stop those acts, you could have stopped Hudson’s offensive “yellowface” and prevented the harm that it has caused. Instead, you were more concerned about your embarrassment. Your honesty does not hide your lack of integrity.

You state that you take the publication of Best American Poetry “very f*cking seriously.” You should have taken the golden rule of being an editor of color very f*cking seriously instead.

Dear Michael Derrick Hudson,

Shame on you. You are not entitled to publication credits. Ethnic minority identities are not submission strategies for white poets.

You have probably realized by now that you have ruined any chance of publishing under your own name. If you feel any remorse, you should publicly apologize and withdraw your poem.

If you don’t feel remorse, I imagine that you are likely coming up with new pseudonyms to use for your future, mediocre poems. Let me help. Below are some ethnic sounding pseudonyms you can use that fit your personality:

Ipu Palaʻole (Hawaiian), Juan Pendejo (Spanish), Bèn Dàn (Mandarin), Lo Dit (Vietnamese), Uso Tsuki (Japanese), Anakka Nangputa (Tagalog), Writes With Privilege (Native) 

Sincerely,

Craig Santos Perez

Are You a Real Literary Activist? Take the Quiz!

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The spirited discussion on “literary activism” has prompted me to create this easy quiz to see if you are a real literary activist! Each yes answer earns you a point.

  1. Do you write poetry that addresses political, cultural, environmental, and social justice issues?
  2. Do you write poetry that might be described as protest, documentary, decolonial, ecopoetry, subaltern, undocumented, feminist, indigenous, queer, minority, disability, or witness?
  3. Does your poetry carry an ethical dimension to raise awareness, educate, inspire, empower, dignify, or humanize?
  4. Do you write and publish articles, essays, reviews or features of other poets?
  5. Do you conduct interviews with other poets?
  6. Do you publicize and attend other poets’ literary events?
  7. Do you buy other poet’s books?
  8. Do you curate and host events for others?
  9. Do you edit publications that featuring emerging and established writers?
  10. Do you work or volunteer at a small press?
  11. Do you organize or teach local, affordable community writing workshops?
  12. Do you teach creative writing or language arts at a private or public school?
  13. Do you assign other poets’ books in your classes?
  14. Do you present/lecture on other poets’s work at conferences, symposia, or festivals?
  15. Do you encourage students to attend literary events in the community?
  16. Do you share publishing, reading, or funding opportunities with others?
  17. Do you work or volunteer at a for- or non-profit literary organization?
  18. Do you advocate for the end to racism, sexism, ageism, and ableism in a publishing or literary institution? 
  19. Do you call-out, boycott, or divest from racist writers, organizations, and “plantation publishers”?
  20. Do you attend marches, protests, or rallies?
  21. Do you sign petitions and contact your legislatures?
  22. Do you organize direct political actions?
  23. Do you sit-in, occupy, blockade, kayak, shut-down, or interrupt?
  24. Do you make poetic protest signs?
  25. Do you compose poetic slogans, mottoes, chants, or ditties?
  26. Do you write poetically-inflected political speeches?
  27. Do you organize poetry readings at activist events/rallies?
  28. Do you perform your poetry at activist events/rallies?
  29. Do you contribute your writing skills to activist pamphlets, press releases, op-eds, hand-outs, etc?
  30. Do you host activist zine workshops?
  31. Do you teach writing workshops at activist events or within social justice movements (labor unions, prisons, immigrant communities, etc).
  32. Do you extend the activist event by writing poetry about the action and publish your poem on social media, in books, or in literary journals?

Don’t worry about adding up your score: the point is not the points! The point is to realize that there are many ways to be a literary activist. Even if you don’t have much time or money to engage with activism, there are still ways to contribute—and any contribution will certainly enrich social movements and your own personal life.

Poets and creative writers are a necessary and vital component of every activist movement. Poets can inspire others to speak out and write their own truth. Poets can change minds, capture hearts, and humanize others. Poets help nurture our imaginations, which we will need for creative non-violent activism. Most importantly, poets can show us that deep down, everyone can be a poet–that we all have valuable stories and meaningful lives.

For 2016, consider attending Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2016, which is dedicated to exploring the relationship between poetry and activism.

Quiz Notes:

Read Barbara Jane Reyes’s posts on “Literary Activism and Generosity” from 2011. 

Read my post on “Poetry, Politics, and Why I am Not an Activist,” from 2010.

Read Amy King et al, “What is Literary Activism”

Read Linda Russo’s post on poets addressing ecological movements.

Read Stephen Collis’s posts on “After Burnaby Mountain” 

Read about Mark Nowak’s creative writing workshops with labor unions.

Read about a zine project in Hawaiʻi 

Lead photo from The Operating System