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#RedefineAtoZ: Craig Santos Perez Has a Story to Tell Through Art, Poetry

In 2017, Dr. Craig Santos Perez became the first native Pacific Islander poet to win the prestigious Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship for Poetry.
Craig Santos Perez
Craig Santos Perez was the first native Pacific Islander to win the Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship for Poetry in 2017.Gio Parks / NBC News

NAME: Dr. Craig Santos Perez

AGE: 37

HOMETOWN: Mongmong, Guam

TWITTER: @craigsperez / FACEBOOK: Craig Santos Perez

How do you introduce yourself?

I introduce myself as a native Chamorro from the Pacific Island of Guam. I am from the village of Mongmong, and from the clan, Gollo. I attended high school and university in California, and I am a professor at the University of Hawaiʻi. I am a poet, performance artist, scholar, educator, activist, editor, publisher, son, husband, and father.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the ecologies of the Pacific islands, the resilience of Pacific Islanders, the wisdom of Pacific cultures, the brilliance of Pacific scholarship, and the beauty of Pacific arts.

SEE THE LIST: NBC Asian America Presents: A to Z - The 26 Emerging Voices of 2017

What challenges you?

Writing scholarship, composing poetry, and teaching all challenge me in rewarding ways. Finding time and balance is a challenge since I do many different kinds of work. The forces of colonialism, militarism, and capitalism are challenges that impact all of us in the Pacific.

Tell us about the biggest risk you ever took.

My family's migration from from Guam to California was the biggest risk in my life. Any migration is full of risk, hopes, and fears because you never know what will happen to your life in a new place. Will we find happiness or trauma? Will we succeed of fail? Will we be welcomed or rejected? Will we ever belong?

What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?

I am teaching a course on "Eco-Poetry," which focuses on poetry about nature, ecology, environmental justice, ecology, climate change, animals, and food. So I am reading many student poems about these topics.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what job would you want to have?

If I weren't a professor, I would want a job in environmental sustainability.

RELATED: First Native Pacific Islander Receives Prestigious Poetry Fellowship

What’s your motto?

Live poetically.

I celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because... is important for us to acknowledge our accomplishments, recognize our cultural vibrancy, and highlight our contributions to, and critiques of, the United States of America.

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