Craig Santos Perez: The Poetics of Mapping Diaspora, Navigating Culture, and Being From (Part 2)

[To read part 1 of “The Poetics of Mapping Diaspora, Navigating Culture, and Being From,” click here.]


European cartographic representations of the Pacific Ocean first developed at the end of the 15th century, when the Americas were incorporated into maps. The Pacific became a wide mostly empty space separating Asia and America. With Europe placed at the center, world maps show Oceania divided into two opposite halves on the margins of the map. Torn in half. Partitioned.

From Magellan (1521), Europeans learned Pacific islands existed. They say the earliest map showing what could be Guam and the other islands of the Marianas is the 1540 map of Asia and America by Sebastian Münster. The map includes the term “Mare Pacificum” (Latin for “peaceful sea”), possibly the first appearance of that name on a printed map. This name circulated widely through Munster’s Geographia and Cosmographia.

It would define our geography and cosmography. It became our name even though it was not our name.

Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, wrote: “During those three months and twenty days, we sailed in a gulf where we made a good four thousand leagues across the Pacific Sea, which was so rightly named. For during this time we had no storm.”

Every new voyage incorporated new data into new maps. Every new voyage brought a new storm.


In an essay titled, “Pacific Map and Fiction(s): A Personal Journal,” Samoan writer Albert Wendt writes:

We each have preferred maps, learned maps—what we believe our cultures, our nations, ourselves were and are. […] Not just geographical/political ones but maps of the moa (centre), the heart, imagination, agaga; cultural, artistic, literary/language, spiritual, philosophical, cinematic, mythological, dream, emotional maps; maps emerging out of the Pacific, maps brought in and imposed, maps combining the two, maps which are deliberate erasures and replacements; maps which reveal the rivers, mountains and geography of a people’s agaga/psyche; maps used to perpetuate fictions/myths about ourselves; new maps, new fusions and interweavings; outer maps which reflect inner maps and configurations; maps which are the total of our cultural baggage, and in which we are imprisoned.

One hope for my poetry is to enact an emerging map of Guahan/Guam—both as a place and as a signifier—from the blank page of silence (and being silenced) into “new maps, new fusions and interweavings.”

from excerptus: “pluck out”
from ex- “out” + carpere “gather” or “harvest”

From also indicates an excerpt, or a passage quoted from a source. My own passage and migration from Guam to the United States often feels like living an excerpted existence; while my body lives here, my heart still lives in my homeland.

Poetry is a way for me to bring together these excerpted spaces via the transient, processional, and migratory cartographies of the page. Each of my poems, and each of my books, and seemingly every breath I take, carries the from and bears its weight and incompleteness.

Interweavings : from in, inter, enter, turn, we, weave, wave, wings, sing, singe.

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), is the co-founder of Achiote Press and Ala Press, and the author of two poetry books: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008) and from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010), recently noted as a finalist for the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. Beginning Fall 2011, he will be an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. Find him online at


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2 Thoughts on “Craig Santos Perez: The Poetics of Mapping Diaspora, Navigating Culture, and Being From (Part 2)

  1. Tina Bartolome on April 16, 2011 at 9:56 am said:

    Craig! I love love love your meditations here, especially how you take your time looking at specific words like “from.” While reading it reminded me of an article by Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman “Pacific-ing Asian Pacific American History” (Project Muse 2004) where she puts the Pacific Ocean at the center of the map and argues for a world view that sees homeland as ocean-based not land-based, ocean as highway that connects, not barrier that keeps apart. The recent tsunami reminded me of this idea, too. As I get ready to leave academia and go back to non-profit work in the bay, I am excited for good folks like you keeping academia on it toes and also inspired to keep my own writing alive as it contributes to this endless project of decolonizing our minds, hearts and imaginations. Yes! Saina Ma’ase.

  2. Craig–you probably watched it, but Fred Wah’s talk at the Writer’s Center Canadian poet fest includes a wonderful meditation on prepositions.

    aloha, Susan

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