From Unincorporated Territory [åmot] (Paperback)
Winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, this collection of experimental and visual poems dives into the history and culture of the poet’s homeland, Guam.
This book is the fifth collection in Craig Santos Perez’s ongoing from unincorporated territory series about the history of his homeland, the western Pacific island of Guåhan (Guam), and the culture of his indigenous Chamoru people. “Åmot” is the Chamoru word for “medicine,” commonly referring to medicinal plants. Traditional Chamoru healers were known as yo’åmte; they gathered åmot in the jungle and recited chants and invocations of taotao’mona, or ancestral spirits, in the healing process.
Through experimental and visual poetry, Perez explores how storytelling can become a symbolic form of åmot, offering healing from the traumas of colonialism, militarism, migration, environmental injustice, and the death of elders.
About the Author
Craig Santos Perez is an indigenous Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is the coeditor of six anthologies; the author of poetry collections including Habitat Threshold and his ongoing from unincorporated territory series; and the author of the monograph, Navigating Chamoru Poetry: Indigeneity, Aesthetics, and Decolonization. He is professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa. Perez has received the National Book Award for Poetry, American Book Award, Pen Center USA/Poetry Society of America Literary Prize, Hawaiʻi Literary Arts Council Award, Nautilus Book Award, and the George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the Associated Writing Programs.
"Perez uses this volume of poetry, his fifth in the unincorporated territory series, to ponder what healing looks like. What medicine can serve as a remedy for post-colonialism, environmental and climate collapse, rising extremism, and late-stage capitalism? Perez seems to offer answers in community, heritage, connection . . . He alternates a softer yearning for family and community with nods to the fraught legacy of Guåhan’s colonization. It’s a powerful framework, this back and forth — this poetry both slaps and slaps back: Rice becomes a motif, but so does rampant abuse at the hands of the Catholic church; so does military destruction. In this way, the work of remembering, of holding together the collective experience of trauma, becomes an active practice."
"Perez's ongoing project is one of the longest-running and most rewarding literary engagements with Pacific Islander and Indigenous poetics of the twenty-first century."
— Booklist starred review
"Say you want poetry that both innovates and accumulates, something with brainteasing difficulty and world-building breadth—part modernism, part Marvel Cinematic Universe. One sure bet, for 15 years and counting, is the ongoing series from unincorporated territory by Craig Santos Perez, an indigenous Chamoru poet-scholar from Guåhan (Guam). . . . In this fifth installment, that Chamoru word is [åmot], meaning 'medicine'; the word commonly refers to plants, but as Perez explains, specialists in åmot employ a plethora of healing practices, including massage, dietary advice, and 'prayers, chants, and the invocation of i taotao’mona, or ancestral spirits'—centuries-old rituals undergirding Perez’s verbal arts."
"A rich and expansive collection of fragments, fractals, family stories and archival material, from unincorporated territory [åmot] holds elegies for the past and present around a land and people still in flux; of occupation and mourning, loss and family, flora and fauna, documenting the visual literacies of an island and its people, examining what erodes and what holds, and what might already be lost."
— rob mclennan's blog
“Perez continues to expand visual literacies of Pacific literature as he grapples with the question: what does it mean to write the ocean? Here are handwoven, blessed nets of intergenerational Chamoru stories. If a poem could unstitch a barbed wire fence, throw net, play bingo, unshipwreck Indigenous youth, care for elders, or heal a broken heart with Spam, that poem is in these pages. Propelled by gratitude, this book is a call to defy and protect, a sea of poetic innovation and care.”
— No'u Revilla, author of Ask the Brindled
“In from unincorporated territory [åmot], Perez sings down healing for the speaker who asks, ‘isn’t that too / what it means to be / a diasporic chamorus // to feel foreign in your own homeland.’ Each poem probes this question against the continued disenfranchisement and militarization of Guåhan and the CHamoru people. From elegies for loved ones, continual rewriting of prayer, and eating rice with the grandmother, the rituals in this collection bear the histories of family, of the church’s spiritual abuse, and of the colonization of the island. But for endurance and renewal there is hope; each poem-story is itself a plant that yields a seed the speaker gathers. Each seed bursts its casing to branch into a meeting place for inter-generational memory and wisdom. What was deemed unworthy, flowers wildly, coded in the name of the plants reclaiming their CHamoru names banking these pages. In this collection Perez’s vital poems prove yet again that his necessary and clear voice is one that shakes the foundations of nation and demands of the reader to consider their complicity in the machinations of Empire.”
— Rajiv Mohabir, author of Cutlish
“[åmot], the fifth stunning collection of Perez’s series from unincorporated territory combines Guåhan’s natural and cultural histories, as well as CHamoru visual and oral literacies, to create a poetic form of healing that Édouard Glissant might have hailed an aesthetic of the Earth. Like the banyan tree that expands and strengthens through aerial roots, the poetry of [åmot] is a ‘medicinal plant’ that seeds from the diasporic roots of Guåhan, from its histories fragmented by imperialisms, from CHamoru ancestors and elders, from the egg of an exiled Micronesian Kingfisher, to radiate back to their center: Guåhan. With this fifth opus, Perez accomplishes a tour de force by literally fusing Guåhan’s natural and cultural forms with the poetic fabric, and by mapping a CHamoru ecology of healing, between home and displacement. A literary achievement carried out through lyricism, communality, humor, gratitude, and responsibility.”
— Beatrice Szymkowiak, author of Red Zone
"Craig Santos Perez’s multi-volume from unincorporated territory is one of the great poetic sequences of our decolonial time, and this latest installation åmot is an urgent meditation on dispossession in the face of ecocide and a celebration of poetry’s eccentric, medicinal power to counter new and old forms of imperial violence, from military occupation to resource extraction. Against the 'latitudes & longitudes / of empire' and its 'bleached coral,' Perez deploys lyric narratives, family histories, indigenous legends, recipes, hashtags, reading lists, archipelagic calligrams, translingual jokes, (alter)native botanies, and a range of diasporic maps (Spam backwards), so as to center the 'aerial roots' that can attune us to 'the intertextual / sacredness / of all things.' In a small place like Guahån (Guam), Perez finds the oceanic language for a new kind of book that can 're-wild' the word and the world."
— Urayoán Noel