A collection of poems created to help heal traumatic wounds linked to colonialism, militarism and environmental injustice in the western Pacific island of Guåhan or Guam catapulted a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa English professor into the national spotlight. Craig Santos Perez won the 2023 Award for Poetry at the 74th National Book Awards in New York City on November 15 for his book, from unincorporated territory [åmot], a deeply personal piece of work about his Indigenous Chamoru people.
Perez accepted the award in front of star-studded company in the Big Apple. The ceremony was attended by powerhouse celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington, Cindy Crawford and the crème de la crème of America’s literary world.
from unincorporated territory [åmot]
Perez’s book is the fifth in his ongoing collection about the history and culture of Guam’s Indigenous people. Åmot is the Chamoru word for “medicine,” and his intent is to offer healing through experimental and visual poetry.
Each year, the National Book Foundation recognizes outstanding literary work by U.S. citizens. Perez’ book was one of 10 finalists in the running for the 2023 National Book Award for Poetry after 295 were initially submitted from across the country.
An esteemed panel of judges selected Perez as an overall winner.
In 2022, Perez landed the Modern Language Association Prize for Studies in Native American Literatures, Cultures and Languages, for his book, Navigating CHamoru Poetry: Indigeneity, Aesthetics, and Decolonization. He has received the American Book Award, Pen Center USA/Poetry Society of America Literary Prize, Hawaiʻi Literary Arts Council Award and Nautilus Book Award, among others.
- Related UH News story: National award for book on CHamoru poetry, December 13, 2022
Perez is presently working on a new poetry book, Mutiny, focused on issues related to the Pacific Islands. It is set to be published in 2024 by Omnidawn.