Poetry Express: Greg Santos + Ghost Face

Combining the forces of poetry and memoir, Greg Santos’ Ghost Face (DC Books) is a personal collection that delves into reflection on the experience of growing up as a Cambodian child adopted by Canadian parents.We chat with Greg about how having children of his own helped him to feel comfortable in reclaiming his heritage, how the horror genre has provided him with inspiration and his ideal escape to Mars. Read on for the full Q&A and the poem “Rainbow Fish” from the collection.


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During the month of April, you can buy any of our featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada. Just use promo code NPMexpress at checkout. Or you can find it at your  local independent bookstore.All Lit Up: Can you tell us a bit about your collection and how it came to be?Greg Santos: Ghost Face explores my background as a transracial adoptee of Cambodian descent growing up with Canadian parents. I would consider it a work of memoir written in a poetic stream. While my book touches on themes of absences and loss, it also explores family mythologies, parenthood, and hope. I had been working on some of these poems for over ten years but had not felt comfortable sharing them until only recently. Having children of my own has helped me want to reclaim all the different facets of my heritage so that I can pass these stories onto them. I am thrilled to finally have this book out in the world!  

Photo of Greg Santos (Credit: Mollye Miller)

[Image Description: A front facing photo of the author that is cut off at the upper chest. He is standing against a backdrop of green foliage. The author has black hair, dark brown eyes and is of medium skin tone. He looks straight ahead and is smiling slightly with his mouth closed and lips touching. He is wearing a plain black shirt.]  ALU: What has been your most unlikely source of writing inspiration?GS: The most unlikely source of my inspiration lately has been watching horror genre movies, shows, and books. I have been drawn to scaring myself silly from a young age by reading Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting works and the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series to staying up late to watch the X-Files, and more recently bingeing Stranger Things on Netflix. There is something oddly comforting and cathartic about getting scared only to turn on all the lights to reveal that everything is okay. ALU: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?GS: The more I write poetry and the more I read it makes my idea of poetry a constantly evolving one. Poetry is a living and breathing creature, with an impish mind of its own. ALU: What are you most in the mood to read these days? Any poets you’re especially enjoying?GS: I find myself reading many different books on the go. From short stories to novels and memoirs, I like to keep things varied. As for poetry, I do like to keep up with what my contemporaries are doing. Some Canadian poets whose work I was particularly moved by this past year include Knot Body by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, The Loudest Thing by Joshua Levy, The Eleventh Hour by Carolyn Marie Souaid, and keep an eye out for Cora Siré’s new poetry collection coming out Spring 2021, Not In Vain You’ve Sent Me Light.  ALU: Describe your ideal escape.GS: Like probably many of us these days, I like to imagine escaping to somewhere that isn’t affected by COVID-19. Actually with the Perseverance rover successfully landing on Mars this year, escaping to a pandemic-free planet sounds really appealing. Otherwise, I am looking forward to the day when the majority of us are vaccinated and we can safely gather again indoors with family and friends. That novel time sometime in the future is my ideal escape. *  

A poem from Ghost Face

Rainbow Fisha haibun 
Dad showed up in my dream again. It has been a while. Waking up foggy this morning, I was
gasping to make some sense of it all. I barely remembered, then suddenly it came, a rainbow fish
swimming into view through the murk. I was in his office at my childhood home, he had a
present for us! It was a box, transparent, and fringed with gold. Inside was a delicate chain
necklace with a clear pyramid hanging from its end. The pyramid glittered, a prism in the
sunlight. Inside it were tiny flowers, flowers of lace like baby’s breath, but sweet smelling.
Cinnamon, I think lavender, several other spices I can’t remember. Dad’s voice said it was for
us. I looked around. I don’t know where his voice was coming from. He was no longer in the
room. The kids were beaming with excitement. I told them, be careful. Be careful with
Grandpapa’s glass box. But I was smiling, too. Before the dream mottled away into wakefulness.
This tremendous fish
under marvel rainbow skies
half out of water.

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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.

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During the month of April, you can buy Ghost Face and any one of our other featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with promo code NPMexpress. Or find them at your  local independent bookstore! Keep up with us all month on  Twitter,   Instagram, and  Facebook with the hashtag #ALUPoetryExpress
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