1) Tell us about yourself as a writer, educator, and editor. Who and what inspired you to pursue this path? Did you enjoy your MFA program?
I came to poetry late, after five years of teaching composition at various colleges. My initial masters degree was void of creative writing and primarily emphasized nineteenth century British and American literature, so I was more entranced with big novels (George Gissing, George Eliot), slave narratives, and Poe's short stories and criticism. With a few exceptions, the poetry rarely captured my imagination or spoke to me. It was a last minute decision to attend a Neruda workshop at Esalen Institute with Dr. Amelia Barilli that set my creative life in motion. In that short weekend, I fell in love with Neruda's literary and political life, his appetite for women and food, and, of course, his poems. I returned two months later to attend another workshop with Barilli on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My own appetite couldn't be satisfied. Numerous workshops with poets like Ellen Bass, Sharon Olds, Dorianne Laux, and Kim Addonizzo followed as did a few night courses at San Jose State University. In 2003 I applied to and enrolled in New England College's MFA program. This was a new low residency program that solely focused on poetry. I had fabulous poet mentors and made life long friends with other poets. While I was in my program, I wanted to start serving in my own literary community and joined the Board of Directors at Poetry Center San Jose. For three years I edited their literary magazine, Caesura. Working from the inside of a non-profit helped me build my vision and focus for IPLSF.
For last year's AWP, I was supposed to be on a panel called "Poets and Editors on Race and Inclusivity." Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the conference due to back problems. Since the issue of the panel is important to me, I've posted the talk I was going to give below. Please feel free to share:
My name is Craig Santos Perez, and you may remember me from last year’s acclaimed AWP panel “American Hybrid and its Discontents,” where I presented a paper titled “Whitewashing American Hybrid Poetics.” I asked: why would white poets want to be hybrid when hybridity theory is soooo nineties. The answer was simple: if you weren’t hybrid then you had no choice as a white poet but to become either Ron Silliman or Robert Penn Warren.
You may be asking, when did I become such an expert on White-American poetics? Well, I have a B.A. in Literature and MFA in Creative Writing from USAmerican institutions, which means that I’ve only been required to read White-American poets.
Next up on my beachshelf is Barbara Jane Reyes' newest collection, Diwata (BOA Editions, 2010). Although I've never taken a class with Barbara, her poetics, criticism, editorial vision, community activism, generosity, and overall badass-ness have deeply influenced me (and many others). Being the generous poet she is, she agreed to answer a few questions about her work. Thanks Barbara!
Los Angeles is a tough city for a poet. Even a cab driver, who admitted he wrote screenplays during the day, almost swerved off the freeway upon hearing that there was a book prize for poetry. I thought nothing of it at first, but after my feature reading at the Book Festival, the crowd was hostile (even Ed heckled me!): watch a video of the audience here.
After the booing died down, Ed & I strolled over to the booth of Small World Books for our joint signing. Met many nice folks, including fellow Tinfish author Naomi Long. After the signing, I bid adieu to Ed and his lovely family and headed back to the author green room to catch the shuttle to the Marriot. And then something unexpected happened...
The first day of the Festival started beautifully for me: I had breakfast with two of my favorite Chamorro activists, Tony and Yvonne Prieto. They were heading to Sacramento for an emergency budget meeting on state funds for those with mental and physical challenges. We talked about...