Nathaniel Mackey with Craig Santos Perez @ The Holloway Series


Craig Santos Perez
Originally uploaded by bjanepr

Bummed out that I couldn’t go to Lunch Poems and check out Arthur Sze’s reading. Barb has told me so much about his work and it would have been great to hear his work. The UC library where the series is held is also a dope place for poetry. On the plus side, I did get to check out Craig Santos Perez and Nathaniel Mackey read tonight.

Hillary Gravendyk dropped an awesome intro for Craig that highlighted his hard work as an author, critic, and editor; and how these roles all come together in the service and promotion of poetry. Hillary went on to speak of Craig’s ability to co-opt the text of the co-opter and from that weaves a new text that “gently resists the urge to speak for the group.”

Craig read poems from four of his 11 chapbooks, the first a set of poems from Informant where Craig updates Williams Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just To Say” to speak on the violations of the Hearst Museum, and the refusal of the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand to acknowledge indigenous rights.

From there we heard the tales of Juan Malo, a mythical figure in Chamorro resistance literature, the commoner who is able to out wit and befuddle his oppressor at every turn. The two poems (Juan Malo and the Tip of the Spear & Juan Malo and Where America’s Day Begins) highlight some key areas in Craig’s poetics: effective satire, conversational tone, and historic backdrop amidst the individual speaker’s perspective. Craig’s poem don’t seek to overthrown the establishment as much as they seek to point out the establishment’s very visible cracks.

Another shift in tone occurs when Craig reads from Pre-Touring as the We comes to the forefront of the poems. This We shifts back to a very immediate I in his last poem “Achoite” where respect for nature (the things that came before us and will live on after us) is taught through the ritual of cultivating achiote seeds with his grandmother.

All these tones and sceneries delivered without rush or hyperbole, the poems practically speaking for themselves.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow, more on Nathaniel Mackey and the intersection of history and memory, and how Sze and Mackey both take the delicate word and craft it into fine materials that seek to outlast time.

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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