open access


Contemporary socially engaged poets have been for over a decade challenging the notion that either experimental form is detrimental to a poem’s political message or that a transparent agenda forecloses its chances of being considered high art. The work of Chamorro poet Craig Santos Perez rebuts this dated conception of the ties between avantgarde art and social commitment. With his ongoing epic from UNINCORPORATED TERRITORY, Santos Perez recovers the land, culture, and language of his native Guam from the hands of the islands’ historical colonizers, gathering the fragments he founds in the local oral history, court cases, songs, myths, and more. If Michael Dowdy is right when he claims that “if the political content of a poem is obscured or inaccessible, it will likely fail as a political figure of voice,” there must be something in Santos Perez’s poems that clarifies and makes that content accessible. Said thing is found in the numerous paratextual elements that feature in the series, most notably in the epigraphs. Furthermore, the fragments collected by Santos Perez can be regarded as the product of Guam’s colonial history which the poet repurposes to create a new Chamorro identity.