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Poetry by Greg Santos
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In his third DC Books title, Ghost Face, Greg Santos explores what it means to have been a Cambodian infant adopted at birth by a Canadian family.
Through a uniquely playful and self-reflective series of poems that pay moving homage to his adoptive parents, and explore the fantasies of a lost family and life in Cambodia, Santos leads the reader through his visceral process of unlearning and relearning who he is and who he might become.
In Ghost Face by Greg Santos, we balance gracefully between the
past, the present, and steadily through what haunts us. With each engaging poem, we’re reminded that stories shape our world and
how poetry invites us in to partake in the narrative. In a history made of tweezers, / removing a splinter from a child’s palm, we question, Dear ghosts, / where do your atoms reside?–with pain comes healing, with history comes inquiry. Santos’ poems are inventive, smart, and skillfully written and his work does not disappoint. Ghost Face is a beautiful collection that thoughtfully examines family mythologies, identity, and a longstanding belief in ghosts. These are poems I kept returning to, a book I could not put down.
–KELLI RUSSELL AGODON, AUTHOR OF HOURGLASS MUSEUM & THE DAILY POET: DAY-BY-DAY PROMPTS FOR YOUR WRITING PRACTICE
"You had a happy childhood,” Greg Santos writes in Ghost Face. “Then you awoke in a strange town, / you were at a party, off in some corner alone. / Someone kissed you in the dark.” Within the exquisite, labyrin- thine memory palace of Ghost Face, migration and adoption converge in moving dramas of cultural displacement and belonging. Faced with 'The gravity of our world / always pushing down on our fragile bodies,' Santos’s poems dance with gratitude for community in all its forms, from the most delightful minute particulars of day-to-day family life to the grand technological wonders of interstellar exploration."
–TONY TRIGILIO, AUTHOR OF GHOST OF THE UPPER FLOOR
“Greg Santos is a poet of intense sensibility, who writes between the spaces of the concrete and the unseen. His book, Ghost Face, indeed embarks on the journeys of ghosts: the feelings or awareness that something is ‘there’ but that cannot be interpreted.”
–Vallum, December, 2020
“Greg Santos’ Ghost Face delivers a catechism pep talk in the mirror... The interplay between monologue, dialogue, narration, race, spirituality, identity, and memory is dignified, inquisitive, hopeful.”
--Jay Miller, Variety Pack magazine
ABOUT Ghost Face
Some of the poems in the section titled ‘I/You’ in Ghost Face were started during my time as a graduate student at The New School (2007-2009) in a wonderful memoir writing course with Honor Moore.
My previous full-length poetry collections through DC Books, The Emperor’s Sofa (2010) and Rabbit Punch! (2014) were different in tone and did not overtly touch on the themes of identity or my family history.
I was not quite ready to share some of the raw experiences I was exploring in those poems yet and I didn’t feel like they fit in with my other book projects. When I put together my 2018 Eyewear poetry collection, Blackbirds, which touches on some of the themes that I flesh out further in Ghost Face, I was really anxious about how the poems exploring identity and my family history would be received. But after all the lovely feedback and support from my family, friends, readers, and from within the literary community, I felt like it was okay to dive in further.
When the time came to put Ghost Face together as a manuscript, I was grateful to work with Jason Camlot, a fellow Montrealer and notable Canadian scholar and poet, who I’ve greatly admired and who was the editor for my two previous DC Books collections.
Jason is a thoughtful and encouraging editor and one of the ideas that I’d like to tip my hat in his direction for was taking some of the ‘I/You’ poems which featured dialogues between the speaker and “Ghost Face” only to have one side of the conversation visible to the reader. When Jason suggested making part of the dialogue disappear, it just clicked! Hauntings and loss are pivotal themes throughout my collection, so I felt this ghostly revision added something extra special to the book."
--Kenyon Review, December, 2020
Read the full interview with Greg Santos here:
"... All this is delivered in calm, considered, beautifully crafted poetry. It’s a charming, honest, balanced collection that speaks to the heart.
Santos uses the Portuguese term, suadade – the presence of an absence – and I find it so fitting for this time, this period in our lives of missing people and places. In Dear Dad, he speaks to his late father, and I was reminded of the dreams I have so frequently now of conversations with my own adoptive father who passed away last April. The comfort of ghosts."
- Martha Warren, The Poetry Question, Jan. 2021
Read the full review here:
Author Greg Santos photo by Mollye Miller
Greg Santos is a poet, editor, and educator. He is the author of Blackbirds (2018), Rabbit Punch! (2014), and The Emperor’s Sofa (2010). He is of Cambodian, Portuguese, and Spanish descent. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He regularly works with at-risk communities, and teaches at the Thomas More Institute. He is the Editor in Chief of the Quebec Writers' Federation's carte blanche magazine. Santos lives in Montreal with his wife and two children.
Ghost Face, Greg Santos, 83 pp., 5 x 8, Poetry, September 2020
ISBN: 978-1-927599-51-8 (paper) . . . $19.95
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You’ve published 3 books of poetry since 2010. What has been the biggest change from your first to third book?
In 2018, I wrote a short poetry pamphlet titled Blackbirds with a different publisher, Black Spring Press Group, based out of the UK. I felt like this was an opportunity to try something new. With Blackbirds, I wanted to explore poems that touched on my unique background as a Montreal-born Cambodian transracial adoptee who was raised by my immigrant parents from Spain and Portugal. I wasn’t sure how the collection would be received but after an overall positive experience with its reception, this gave me the opening to delve deeper into the poems that would ultimately make up my 3rd DC Books collection, Ghost Face
--Nathaniel G. Moore, The Miramichi Reader, March 2021
"[Greg Santos] said he wanted to write this book of poetry in hopes that his children, who are 10 and 7, would connect with the poems as well.... 'I'm living a life poetically. Being a poet, you're always looking around at the world around you in a different way. I'm often like an antenna taking in everything around me.'"
--Jennifer Cox, The Suburban, April 28, 2021