9/23/21 Sonnet at the Edge of the Reef: A Conversation with Dr. Craig Santos Perez

“Climate poetry can humanize data and give us the human voice behind everything that’s happening,” Craig Santos Perez writes. “I try to capture that range. It’s hard to feel despair and anger all the time.”

Sonnet at the Edge of the Reef: A Conversation with Dr. Craig Santos Perez

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

6pm EDT / 3pm PDT / 12pm HST

Part of our series of Convos.

Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Chamoru (Chamorro) from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is a poet, scholar, editor, publisher, essayist, critic, book reviewer, artist, environmentalist, and political activist. Alongside teaching at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, where he is Professor of English, and publishing scholarly work on indigenous aesthetics, he has authored two spoken word poetry albums, Undercurrent (2011) and Crosscurrent (2017), and five books of poetry: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (2008), from unincorporated territory [saina] (2010), from unincorporated territory [guma’] (2014), from unincorporated territory [lukao] (2017), and Habitat Threshold (2020). His work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. He has received numerous awards including the Pen Center USA/Poetry Society of America Literary Prize (2011), the American Book Award (2015), and a gold medal Nautilus Book Award (2021).

On Thursday September 23rd, 6PM EDT, Dr. Perez shared readings of his work and discussed the poetry of a warming planet. How might poetry allow us to experience climate grief, anger, or fear in ways not entirely available through data-oriented approaches? How might it work as a kind of sensing technology or even design thinking in its own right?

You can find a video recording of the event here.

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Very excited for this.


@lucphinney thanks for attending and for your excellent question. As it happens another of our participants @garrett.burrell sent me a screenshot of a translated Christensen poem that didn’t make the Alphabet series. One about patterns as “intertwined detours” and patterns that you can’t quite see with the naked eye.

Thanks for the catch Garrett, and thanks again @csperez

Awesome! I will have to look it up, thank you for the reference. I’m afraid my connection wasn’t great the other night so I was dropping in and out a lot. I caught some highlights though. It was a great talk, thanks for hosting. Love Alphabet but I have trouble with ‘exists’, you hear it almost like a drum beat throughout the poem and in that missing o series poem/fragment too it looked like … I understand the relationship between poet and translator was pretty close so I know I shouldn’t second guess but I was talking to a friend who teaches in Denmark and he said that he also thought ‘exist’ had kind of a passive feel to it in English… Maybe one of those lost in translation things… It seems to me that ‘exist’, read in a more active way as something like sustaining or even improvising, is a key part of how to take the anxiety we all feel and turn it into openness – to action, and to the hard conversations. (I wonder if we couldn’t do a regular meeting with folks interested in literary responses to climate change, sort of a writer’s-group-lite. A periodic or aperiodic symposium. Or something.)

It would definitely be interesting to hear a more actively shaded word. Oil ‘insists’?

I’d be very happy to convene again around something literary. Let’s think about what that would look like–more live readings, maybe a thread on the forum, maybe a live discussion group…

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Count me in for a live discussion group. Monthly maybe? I will send note to some folks in writing sems and see if they have any interest as well.

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yea that all sounds great Luc. The commons platform we use has a built in video system, and so it might be ideal to create a channel their to post poems and just have a central meeting place. Another possibility would be to do it in the forum.

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All this is super exciting folks, thank for your interest @lucphinney. We held a writing workshop in the commons (in the “Speculative Worlds” channel in the spring and it went well). Might be nice to have a dedicated channel for writing, though I’ll leave it to you folks to decide where/how best to host this, whether here in the forum, in the commons, or otherwise. I’d love to take part too.