The Brief Wondrous Life of ‘Sea S. Perez’


‘Sea S. Perez’ is my more romantic incarnation, much less saintly than ‘C St. Perez’ and much less analytic than ‘Craig Santos Perez’. read his new review of Ada Limon’s This Big Fake World is now live at CUTBANK.

as a reviewer, i immensely enjoy reviewing more than one book by a single author, just to get a sense of their poetics. You can read my review of Ada’s first book, Lucky Wreck, online at the Pebble Lake Review. As you might know, Ada blogs for the Poetry Foundation now. tho i’ve never met her, i would love to someday as i think she’s a wonderful poet.

one funny coincidence is that my first ever poem publication was in a journal called “watchword” (issue 7) published in 2004. guess who is the poet on the page opposite me: Ada Limon! this was before either of her books were published…but the poem that appears is actually in her Lucky Wreck collection. if you’re reading this Ada, check out the issue!


in the comments to my last post, gary describes this blog as ‘pop-in-per-view’, as in i can only keep blogging for NaBlogWrMo if you, dear reader, continue to comment. i woke up so exhausted today from all the blogging over the last what-seems-like-an-eternity, but thanks to your comments i have my second wind. and hey, i will never charge you money to read my secret posts, as i have no secret posts (life, friends, is boring–we must not say so).

one last sidenote before i respond to their comments: there’s been a flurry of people requesting to read my essay “My Michael Magee and the Frontier of Democratic Symbolic Action”, which is available as a PDF upon request. since i withdrew the essay from Jacket a while ago, there have been maybe….75 people who have requested it. so i am happy about that. recently, a prominent magazine asked if they could publish the essay (for a princely sum i might add) but i kindly turned down their offer. why should i betray what little integrity i have left to make a few extra bucks and be published by a prestigious journal? i will not sell out! and the essay will remain as a FREE PDF so everyone can have access to it, especially poor people with internet access.


before responding to the comments, i should first apologize for the sloppiness of my last posts as i’m only allowing myself 30 minutes for NaBlogWrMo each day. so if there’s anything you think i should clarify / think through please don’t hesitate as i will follow up the next day (if i survive!).

so gary is fairly convinced that the epiphanic mode exoticizes experience. i want to try and convince him that while the epiphanic mode idealizes experience, it doesn’t, of necessity, exoticize experience. Idealizing and exoticizing are two very different processes, both with different values and dangers. again, the case of perse & cesaire allows us to see the difference. barbara’s example of trask also proves the point.

so, let me dance for the shiny quarter that gary so deviously dangles. here’s a short piece (i’m on the clock here) from Teresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee :

Finally. View. This View. What is it finally.
Finally. Seen. All. Seen. Finally. Again.
Immediate. Seen. All. All the time.
Over and over. Again and again.
Seen the void. Void of view.
Inside outside. As if never.
As if it was seen for the first time.
It was. It was the past.
One is deceived. One was deceived of the view
outside inside stain glass. Opaque. Reflects
never. Consequently
following the absent view
which had ceased to appear
already it has been
has been.
Has been without ever


“epiphanic and good!” (manning 2008). I will be putting a paypal button on this blog shortly and will expect the virtual quarter (virtual USD). thanks for the challenge 🙂

thanks for commenting barbara. that was something i needed to write thru but didnt have time. here’s a shot:

so yeah, epiphany: an imaginative transformation or sudden understanding, usually fleeting albeit an enduring effect, of material by a sensitive observer (e.g. Wordsworth’s “spots of time”)

am thinking about the epiphanic modes in joycean terms. i was forced to read the ellman bio of joyce many years ago for class. from p. 83 of my edition and my notes: The epiphany was the sudden ‘revelation of the whatness of a thing’ in which the ‘soul of the commenest object…seems to us radiant.’ The artist might find ‘a sudden spiritual manifestation’ either ‘in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture of in a memorable phase of the mind itself.’ of course, joyce’s epiphanic mode was often ‘eucharistic’: ‘my idea of the significance of things’ a ‘resemblance between the mystery of the Mass and what I am trying to do…by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own’.

anyways, the point here is that there is a variety of epiphanic experience, in life and in art, ranging from the natural, personal, interpersonal, social, political, spiritual, etc. in turn, there is a variety of the epiphanic mode; that is, there are many aesthetic forms that can be employed to articulate the varieties of epiphanic experience. my example of cha is perhaps a more postmodern epiphanic mode. one could argue, if one was an arguer, that even some of Flarf brand poems are epiphanic, tho much of it is consciously anti-epiphanic. one could even look, if one was a looker, at the post-avant epiphanic mode, which is really interesting to me because it makes us think of the word itself as containing the potential for transformation.

ack, time’s up. what are you thinking I wonders?



4 thoughts on “The Brief Wondrous Life of ‘Sea S. Perez’

  1. Hi Sea!

    I like the piece from Dictee, and I can see an argument for it being epiphanic. So, perhaps I owe you a quarter.

    But it’s not what I was thinking of as the epiphanic mode, which I was using to describe a very particular–if prevalent– kind of poetry. That’s of course my fault for not defining my terms.

    But, because I know how hard it is for you to blog every day, and that doing so requires idiots like me popping in and demanding more, I’m going to just pretend like I don’t buy the idea of this poem as epiphanic, at least not in the sense I was using it.

    Maybe “exoticizing” is the wrong word? I was thinking yesterday that perhaps “fetishizes experience” might be closer to what I’m thinking of.

    In the epiphanic poem as I’m thinking of it, the author is there as an “I” presence and the mode is narrative. The grandmother’s hand or grandfather’s hand poem is pretty much the Gold Standard here. The poet contemplates, or fetishes out on, a particular thing or characteristic or event: “Grandmother, your wrinkles are deep and aged with the wind of time.” A narrative unfolds. By the end of the narrative, the poet has transferred his or her Big Feelings and New Insights (How bittersweet it is to age!) to the reader.

    The pig slaughtering in the poem you dealt with a few days ago is just the kind of image one finds in the epiphanic poem, and the relationship of the poet to that slaughter–the “I stood there in awe, contemplating the thin line between life and death” kind of thing that one gets reading it–is absolutely central to the mechanisms of the epiphanic poem that I’m thinking of.

    In other words, the unmentinable-by-title wedding poem of the other day reminded me of numerous poems people write here in the U.S. about farm life or whatever. We may not see that kind of poem as fetishizing or exoticizing, but I’m arguing that that is exactly what they do–especially the former.

    Maybe I’m talking about the poeticizing of experience, generally, and should jettison this idea of the epiphanic poem?

    Well, I dunno. Could the Dictee excerpt be said to poeticize experience on some level? I would argue no, as no experience is directly related. The poem does not deal with reference on that level.

    Anyway, I’m now lost and confused in this comment box, so I should probably pop back out and try to more clearly define my terms on my own blog, where I can more easily edit.

    Suffice to say: I’m not relinquishing my quarter yet!

  2. interesante. so these grandparents’ body part poems then, seem to me to be unsuccessful at the figurative, and in its lack of success – or in its lack of imagination, falling into formula. indeed, with poetry stemming from allegedly personal experience, it does start with an object or artifact, and move outward to the object’s or artifact’s relevance to the larger social/historical context?

    and so what is being critiqued here, that “I” who really is “I” is just limiting by its sheer “I”-ness, and by the writer’s inability to interrogate that “I” and “I”-ness. That said, Nate Mackey’s poetic “we” would be a good example of epiphany/epiphanic poetry not fetishizing experience. At least I do not get the sense from his work that his I/we is/are fixated on the experience as it unfolds in the poems, as mcuh as he/they is/are experiencing the unfolding of word/etymology, his/their relationship to the terrain and its histories, etc.

    I have also blog posted a Carlos Bulosan poem which is a “we” poem which moves progresses from working people to more working people and the history of which they are a part/the history they are both subjected to and which they are creating, ultimately what are their logical ends.

  3. craig, sorry about this, but can you e-mail me again? i have a question for you but can’t find your e-mail address (i have to keep a better grasp on my address book).

    enjoying the discussion here, as always.

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