from unincorporated territory [lukao] (Omnidawn, 2017) is a collection rife with contemporary significance: critiques of military occupation, historical land theft, and poisonous farming practices. This collection also balances the responsibility of family and the birth of a new child in a community where these problems are active threats, unresolved and unimportant to politicians.
This book is deep and took me several months to finish, through several spaced-out sittings, computer on hand to research the many problems Craig brings to light. I recall a particularly upsetting night when I looked up the article mentioned in a poem subtitled “(the birth of SPAM)”. I don’t recommend doing so unless you’re already, like me, a vegetarian. I’d already been aware of the exploitation of undocumented immigrants (and the lower class in general) in the agricultural industry; now I have names and stories and medical diagnoses to lament over. One of the lines in Craig’s poem is this: “Guam is an acronym for ‘Give Us American / Meat.'”
The pieces that deal with loss and the problematic infatuation with the military and even police are also hard-hitting. The poem using the line “#prayfor” exposes the hypocrisy of Americans’ approval of violent means to achieve ‘peace.’
Other pieces in this collection carry a more tender tone: those about a grandmother struggling with memory loss (“grandma. / barely eats. / three bites. / is full. / legs barely. / as thick. / as arms. / veins protrude. / from paper. / thin skin.”
I’d describe the overall theme and request of this collection using a phrase from one of the poems; this book, like much, if not all, of Craig’s work, begs a “species survival plan”, implores the reader to question why we don’t care more, why we sit by as wars topple entire nations, as our oceans fill with plastic, why we gladly bring pesticide-covered food to our tables. How can this be all we’re capable of? Craig sees “the sacredness of this place”, wants us to change our societies “for all of our family”. Even so, the final poem is a celebratory (with moments of criticism) piece, thanking all the aspects of his wedding ceremony for coming into place: “Mahalo Whole Foods… Mahalo Costco… Mahalo Lauralei, my mother-in-law… Mahalo My Pregnancy app… Mahalo to my homemade, no-waste, 100% local smoothie…”
I interviewed Craig a month or two ago about these poems.