In the Spotlight

Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez

Associate Professor, University of Hawai’i, Manoa

Honolulu, HI       Member Since: 2010

About: Dr. Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamorro from the Pacific Island of Guam. He is the co-founder of Ala Press, coeditor of two anthologies of Pacific literature, and the author of four collections of poetry, including from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008) and from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010). A finalist for the LA Times 2010 Book Prize for Poetry and the winner of the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry, he teaches creative writing, Pacific literature, and ecopoetry at the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa.

Photo credit: Hannah Ensor

Is there a book that made you fall in love with literature?
The book that made me fall in love with literature was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude, which I read when I was in high school.    

If you could require all of your students to read only one book, which would it be?
Brandy Nalani McDougall's Ka Makani Paʻakai: The Salt Wind.    

What is the best writing advice that you dispense to your students?
Write passionately every day. Read widely. Join a writing community. Travel. Attend literary events. Pay attention to the world.    

What does your office look like?
My office looks like a tiny studio apartment. There is a small desk, which is off to the side, that holds my computer. I have two small bookshelves that feature genres that I am currently teaching, including Pacific Islander literature, ecopoetry, and Indigenous literature. I have a comfortable futon. On the wall I have a large Pendleton blanket, which I received from the Native American Studies department upon receiving my PhD from UC Berkeley. I have a nice view of Honolulu, Diamond Head, and the Pacific Ocean.    

Describe your writing process. Do you write every day? For how long? Do you listen to music? Do you type at a computer or write in longhand?
I write every day for at least an hour. I freewrite and draft in my journal, and then I type at a computer. I do not listen to music; I prefer silence when I write, though sometimes I will listen to Democracy Now.    

When do you find time to write?
I usually write when my 3-year old daughter is either napping or at preschool.   

What is your favorite thing to do when you should be writing, but just can’t find the motivation?
When I am unmotivated, I enjoy eating and going to the gym. In that order.    

Would you like to share a project you are currently working on?
I am currently working on a book of "ecopoetry." This collection includes poems about nature, ecology, wilderness, environmental justice, animals, food, and climate change.    

What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading the Poetry Magazine July/August 2017 "Asian American" special issue. Also, I am reading three special issues on indigenous poetry: The new issues of World Literature Today, Wasafiri: Journal of International Contemporary Literature, and Rabbit: A Journal for Nonfiction Poetry (Australia).   

What are your favorite literary magazines and publishers?
My favorite literary magazines are the Hawai’i Review, Storyboard, IKA, Poetry, Boston Review, Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry, Waxwing, Under a Warm Linden, and Yellow Medicine Review.   

My favorite literary publishers are Omnidawn Publishing, New Directions, Graywolf, Coffee House, and Kaya Press.

Why did you decide to join AWP?
I joined AWP so that I could attend the conference and network with other writers and publishers.    

How has AWP helped you in your career and/or creative endeavors?
AWP has helped me learn more about the profession of creative writing. The conference gave me a sense of the scope and depth of creative writing in the United States. The AWP website and magazine provided me with a wealth of resources.   

What would be your advice to new AWP members, on how to make the most of their membership?
Get involved, attend the conference, walk the Bookfair, talk to writers and publishers, attend the panels, go to the off-site readings, show up to the after parties, and don't drink too much at the hotel bar!    

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