kaya publishes books of the asian pacific diaspora

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Jason Magabo Perez

Jason Magabo Perez serves as San Diego Poet Laureate 2023-24. Perez is the author of Phenomenology of Superhero (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016), This is for the mostless (WordTech Editions, 2017), and I ask about what falls away (Kaya Press, 2024). Perez’s work has appeared in Interim, Witness, The Feminist Wire, Marías at Sampaguitas, TLDTD, San Diego Union-Tribune, NPR’s Here & Now, among others. Recipient of a Challenge America Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, previous Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Art and Thought, and current Poet Laureate Fellow with Academy of American Poets, Perez has performed at notable venues such as the National Asian American Theater Festival, International Conference of the Philippines, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, La Jolla Playhouse, and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. Perez serves as a core organizer of The Digital Sala and as an Associate Editor at Ethnic Studies Review. Perez is an Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at California State University San Marcos.





I ask about what falls away

Kaya Press Forthcoming March 26, 2024

Pre-order now!

I ask about what falls away is an extended elegy set in the alleyways and Pacific-bound boulevards of San Diego, California during the current global health crisis. Called “an antidote to despair” (Muriel Leung, Imagine Us, The Swarm) and poetry that “complicates notions of solidarity, community, and justice, distilling the quotidian into something sacred” (Rachelle Cruz, God’s Will For Monsters), Jason Magabo Perez’s second full-length book of poetry serves as an intimate grief manifesto against the daily violations of racial capitalism. Perez, 2023-2024 San Diego Poet Laureate, employs a critical and improvisatory assemblage of lyric and litany, narrative and distillation, fragment and refrain to map city, solidarity, and history. At once playful and tenacious, I ask about what falls away pays careful witness to working-class uncles, aunties, cousins and youth in rhythm with the anti-colonial wisdom of writers such as Neferti X. M. Tadiar and Aimé Césaire, remixing sorrow with a deep love and knowledge for everyday people.


Jason Magabo Perez’s improvisation and intentionality work in a toothy dynamic, a dynamic with bite. There’s a musical dialectic between abstract and concrete that resolves tonally, and I ask about what falls away renders a richly alluded world of family, aunties and uncles, home.

– Sesshu Foster, author of City of the Future 

Jason Magabo Perez’s I ask about what falls away is a love letter in a time of “divine sorrow”—tears for the homies, the chosen family, the family across an ocean in the Philippines—bound by the net of racial capitalism. Razed lands, the rise of militarization, targeted state violence—the vortex of violence in these times can drain us of hope and imagination, and yet, here is where Perez’s work delivers us an antidote to despair, what he calls “the recklessness of / memory, the autonomy of sorrow, / & these counter-narratives of joy.” This book invents a grammar of care, linking the anti-colonial wisdom of Neferti X. M. Tadiar to Aimé Césaire, Claudia Rankine to Susan F. Quimpo, scholar-poet to ate, a network of citational abundance to counter the exploitative language of capitalist disposability, each refrain a demonstration of radical remembrance and connection beyond mourning—what stays, what keeps.

– Muriel Leung, author of Imagine Us, The Swarm

Jason Magabo Perez’s stunning book, I ask about what falls away, contends with “divine sorrow” while living in the rotted maw of capitalism, white supremacy, a continuing pandemic where the fissures of inequity deepen and collapse. Here, too, and especially, are poems of “mighty quiet” of / about kasamas and comrades, the unmapped and the mostless, uncles, titas, cousins, and youth who rap “the fuck out of ‘Fuck tha Police.'” Perez’s poems reject easy, corporatized DEI definitions and solutions (these recent hollow permutations in direct reaction to the Black Lives Matter uprisings in 2020), and instead complicate notions of solidarity, community, and justice, distilling the quotidian into something nuanced, fully realized, and sacred: “Follow / us, kasama / communion of / magic, barrel / of possibility.” And these possibilities live in Perez’s stellar mythmaking and storytelling. An uncle, a lolo, a manong rides the bus to the ocean where his “body [is] now bursting & bursting so full of the Pacific.” A homie on his Harley “rides up the mountain forever & ever” while cousins down tributary shots of Galvatron. Gardens “grow against / worry.” I read this book while it read me—”lived / intensities of interior traffic”— tears streaming from laughter and grief, book to heart. 

– Rachelle Cruz, author of God’s Will for Monsters

In Jason Magabo Perez’s I ask about what falls away, the poet indexes the relentlessness of life and death under coloniality: there is grief, sorrow, rage, and the material conditions under which they emerge. But there is also the Filipinx working-class life that vibrantly refuses to slip through the cracks of crisis, carefully marked through language without easily being given away. Perez’s care extends to the reader as well, in his generous poetics. Through the imperatives that are woven and repeated throughout the book––consider, imagine, follow us, show me––the poet summons you as kasama, companion, comrade, not only in the act of study, but in the desire to expand one’s beloved community in struggle. When Perez writes, “you & I desire nothing short of the unthinkable,” he reminds me that poetry is a social place where the process of liberation can be not only imagined, but actively practiced toward reality. Let the fierce and tender stream of his language carry you into the work of that doing.

– Maryam Ivette Parhizkar, author of Somewhere Else the Sun is Falling into Someone’s Eyes 

After all that’s happened in our world since 2020, Jason Magabo Perez’s compelling book is a timely, lyrical balm where his beloved city becomes a site of activism and hope. I ask about what falls away amplifies a poet’s voice at the intersections of critical race theory and ethnic studies in a way that is unrestricted and soulful. Here, Perez provides us this language of survival, electric with protest and tender lamentation. This work needs to be read and shared. 

– Angela Peñaredondo, author of nature felt but never apprehended

I ask about what falls away initiates and cycles through profound affect: phenomenal. If this was an album, I’d have it on repeat. Here, in stunning pieces that move with agility between expansiveness and distillation, litany and granular, Jason Magabo Perez undertakes a sustained act of attention that speaks us closer to ourselves, closer to our full capacity for listening, grief, creativity—living at all. Grounded in the neighbourhood, in everyday relationships of survivance, his deft curiosity invites the patterning and the multiplicity of remix to kick it with the story and the active-theoretical, making them vulnerable to each other’s gifts, defiant in its own vulnerability, its gentleness. I’m filled with wonder. Here, the “inconsequential scene” offers past and future the type of threshold that resists tourism, inscribing connective, embodied revelation. Here there is “longing beneath rebellion”—shoelaces, pillow forts, the homies, the elders—in surroundings of love and harm, enacting the difficult crucial work of “what is ghost, what is bone, what is subject.” In reading this book, I’m seriously, joyfully transformed. I ask about what falls away does nothing less than shift the way I attend to my own memory and imagination. I wish this for you.

– Hari Alluri, author of The Flayed City