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Why I love being a poet

By Craig Santos Perez

Since this will be my last post for Harriet, I want to first thank all the good folks at the Poetry Foundation for sharing their space with me for National Poetry Month. Thanks to all the readers here for attention, I hope you will stay in touch with me through my blog or Facebook.

Being able to share my thoughts, passions, emotions, and activities with others is one reason I love being a poet. Poetry has the ability to build empathy, compassion, knowledge, and solidarity–and I am grateful there are still people in this world who believe those qualities are important.

In addition to this digital and print sharing, I am grateful that I can continue to share poetry in person, in the classroom, and in the community. I am about to complete my first year as an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa, and I am thankful for all my students and colleagues. I am also thankful for the vibrant literatry community here for embracing me and for supporting my efforts to contribute to this vibrance.

I am also thankful for the support of those who have invited me into their literary communities. This past week, Iʻve been on an exhilarating two-city, three-university, four-day reading tour. First, I performed with Susan Schultz at the University of California, San Diego. Special thanks to the wonderful Ben Doller for organizing the event; and I want to thank Sandra Dollar for all her support (together, they edit the wonderful 1913 Press). I admire what they have been able to accomplish as editors and publishers. If you are not familiar with 1913, check them out here and buy a book.

Being able to spend time with them during the after-reading dinner was a great pleasure. It was also a pleasure that poets Rae Armantrout, Paul Naylor, and K. Lorraine Graham joined us for the evening.

The next day, I read with Susan at California State University, San Marcos. Special thanks to Mark Wallace for organizing this event. I met many great students, and I was really impressed by their questions and passion for poetry. One of the best things about being a poet is traveling to a new city, meeting the local poets and scholars, and engaging with young poets. I want to give another special thanks to Mark Wallace, K. Lorraine Graham, and their parrot Lester, for welcoming me into their home. So much of the joy of the trip was sitting around the table with Mark and Lorraine and chatting about poetry.

Then I made my way north to San Francisco, where I read with Aaron Shurin for the Poetry Center of San Francisco State University. Special thanks to Steve Dickison and Elise Ficarra for organizing this event. Part of my genealogy is as a “Bay Area poet,” so itʻs always wonderful to read in a place that I consider home. Also, Aaron was my teacher and mentor during my MFA at the University of San Francisco, so it was a great honor to read with him and celebrate his new book, Citizen (City Lights Books). Thanks to all my family and friends who came out to the reading on a Saturday night, especially Chamoru poet Lehua Taitano, former high school teacher Kami Tomberlain, and Bay Area writer Kevin Killian—so good to have friendly faces in the crowd.

Well, I am sitting at the San Jose airport, waiting for my flight back to Honolulu. I am thinking about how wonderful it can be to be a poet, to talk story and share a meal with poets, to read and discuss poetry, to be in the presence of young poets. I am grateful to live a life that is full of poetry.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, April 30th, 2012 by Craig Santos Perez.