Poetry for the Greater Good


Poet, professor and activist Craig Santos Perez ’02 returns to Johnston Center for Kathryn Green Lecture Series talk.

Returning to the University of Redlands after 14 years, poet Craig Santos Perez ’02 noted much that remained the same. “The lawns are still beautiful,” he said. “And almost all the faculty I worked with are still here, including Bill McDonald, Daniel Kiefer, Joy Manesiotis and Leslie Brody.”

A graduate of the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, Perez, who teaches in the English department at the University of Hawaii, noted “more synergy between Johnston and the rest of the University.”

Perez spent two days on campus in early March, delivering the Kathryn Green Lecture Series talk, teaching several poetry classes and giving a poetry reading from his latest book, from Unincorporated Territory [guma’].

English Professor Daniel Kiefer, who helped bring Perez to campus, called his lecture “wide-ranging, heartfelt and eloquent.” Kiefer has included Perez’ book in two sections of English 110: Poetry and calls it “a wonderful mixture of anti-colonial polemic, official documentation of the U.S. militarization of Guam, family reminiscence and sweet sonorous lyric.”

During the Holt Lobby talk, Perez reflected on growing up on the Pacific island of Guam before moving to northern California as a teenager. He chose Redlands, and specifically the Johnston Center, he said, because of the “stubborn, determined, passionate and creative” people he met there.

Perez also talked about undergraduate experiences that fed his poetry—visiting Southwest national parks and participating in Rites of Passage, where he spent three days alone in the Anza Borrego desert.

For Perez, poetry has been a tool for both exploration and activism, including opposing the spread of militarization on Guam.

Living on Hawaii with his wife, Brandi McDougall, a professor of indigenous studies, and his two-year-old daughter, Kaikainali’l, Perez travels widely and frequently, always trying to tie together his dual interests in poetry and political issues.

Johnston Center Professor Emeritus Bill McDonald asked Perez to conclude his talk by reading a poem. He chose “from sounding lines [chamorro standard time: UTC+10]” including these lines:

rotary vocal cords

pulse when
it is one am here

it is seven pm the next
day passes

into years—
fewer and fewer

calls lost

Craig Santos Perez ’02 Johnston Center

  • Degrees: B.A., University of Redlands; MFA, University of San Francisco; M.A., Berkeley; Ph.D., Berkeley in ethnic studies
  • Career: Associate professor of Pacific literature, poetry and eco-poetics, English Department, University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • Literary accomplishments: Co-founder, Ala Press; author of three books of poetry; winner of the American Book Award 2015 from the Before Columbus Foundation
  • Political and social work: Testified before the U.N. on behalf of his home people. In 2010, the Guam Legislature passed Resolution No. 315-30, recognizing Santos Perez for “eloquently conveying through his words, the beauty and love that is the Chamorro culture.”

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