Monday, April 1, 2019

Blackbirds — Greg Santos (Goggles Eyewear Pamphlet Series 2018/Eyewear Publishing)

Today's book of poetry:
Blackbirds.  Greg Santos.  Goggles Eyewear Pamphlet Series 2018.  Eyewear Publishing Ltd.  Marylebone, London, UK.  2018.


Blackbirds offers up some right in your face racist scenarios that make you feel embarrassed to be a human being at all.  All the unnecessary and hurtful things racist idiots feel entitled to are here.  It is painful to read and almost too painful too consider.

Along side that hot wet moral mess Greg Santos lays in some of the tenderest little love bomb bon mots.  Sweet tidings about his love for his wife and his love for his child.

Today's book of poetry is weighing this emotional yin and yang, it might be tactical.

I Have A Problem

All I care about is everything.
I like to lie down and look up at the stars
even when there are none.
I am almost nothing but thoughts and water.
I find mirrors unbearably off-putting.
My children find them droll.
Do you feel that too?
My left hand feels like a cataclysmic storm.
I will never tire of looking at my wife.
Her smile is like a constant sonar beep
in the depths of my chest.
I hear rain even when it's sunny out.
Have you ever squinted at the ocean
so the sky and the water blend until
you don't know where one ends and the other begins?
I'm doing that right now with you.


"I will never tire of looking at my wife."  Today's book of poetry gave that line a serious standing ovation, in the context of the poem it is tenderness personified.

Back in May of 2015, Today's book of poetry had the pleasure of visiting Greg Santos world when we took at look at his Rabbit Punch! (Punchy Poetry/DC Books, 2014), and you can look at that here:

Some things change and some things don't.  Greg Santos is still knocking them out of the park with his steady diet of cooking up a storm.  Today's book of poetry has no qualms about mixing metaphors in order to exclaim our pleasure.  Blackbirds is another impressive outing from Santos.


This raspberry/peach yogurt tastes bitter.
Why does everything taste bitter today?

The headlines say science can explain why people are jerks.
Here are 20 great ways to sabotage yourself.

I misread 'so many people killing it this month'.
as 'so many people killing this month'.

I swore while making burnt grilled-cheese sandwiches for lunch.
I don't know what to make of the news anymore.

How do we respond to this horrible day?
I watched a video of how instant ramen noodles are made.


Our morning read was held under sunny, sunny skies but we were indoors because even though it is April Fools' Day, April 1st, the temperature when I went out to warm up the car this morning was -14C (with the windchill) and it felt crisp.

After everyone unbundled, the removal of layers of scarves, hats and mittens, and the usual morning clamour, everyone sat down and started off the day as we always do, with Today's book of poetry.  Blackbirds was a delight to read because everyone got crackerjacks.  You could see the poems sinking in around the room, resonating shock and awe.  Santos can lull you into a false sense of security before slamming you back to reality and he does it all with the same easy pace.

It is harder than you might think to reach this level of cool, clear and clean poems.  Greg Santos does it almost every single time out of the gate.

Cracking Up

Waiting by a crosswalk, we watched a motorcyclist zoom by.
The ground shook like an elephant caught in a draft,
prompting me to contemplate the fragility of the cosmos.

We were holding hands, happy to feel the breeze on our faces.
Being somewhat of a wind connoisseur, I noticed a hint of ginger
with a delicate bouquet of foreboding. But I kept it to myself.

A bony woman with a droopy face came up to us and asked,
'Excuse me, were you two laughing at me?'
M and I looked at each other, a bit shocked by the question.

'No,' I said. The droopy-faced woman blinked and nodded.
'Oh,' she said, 'sorry about that. I have low self-esteem. Have a nice day.'
And then she droopily shuffled off.

'I didn't think we were laughing at her, were we?' I asked.
'Oh no,' M said, 'I wasn't laughing at all.'
At a traffic light, we stared absentmindedly at the colored circles.

They looked like brightly lit cough drops. 'You know,' I said guiltily,
'I might have been giggling a little under my breath.'
'Yeah,' M said, 'me too.'

A pick-up truck nearby ran the red light and almost hit a man
crossing on the other side of the street.
M and I couldn't hold it back any longer and we burst out laughing.

Our sides hurt so much, everything began shaking uncontrollably.
Soon dandelions in sidewalk cracks were bent over in hysterics,
skyscrapers were leaning on each others' shoulders and howling,

planets could be heard slapping their knees, even the Milky Way
was spewing dairy out its nose...And this is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang. Certainly not with a whimper. But with a chortle.


Today's book of poetry wants to thank Greg Santos for stopping by.  As long as he continues with this level of poetry, Today's book of poetry has his back.  Blackbirds comes in at a light forty-two pages but by the time you've finished Blackbirds you'll know that Santos has crazy weight.

Greg Santos

Greg Santos is the author of Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He is of Cambodian, Portuguese, and Spanish descent. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. His writing has appeared in The Walrus, Geist, Ricepaper, Queen’s Quarterly, World Literature Today, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and The Best American Poetry Blog. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at the Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and lives in Montreal, Canada, with his wife and two children.

‘Santos is a poet of exceptional ingenuity, insight and range. The poems in Blackbirds travel through shifting geographies of emotion, holding a mirror to life’s complexity. They remind us to laugh, or at least chortle, in the face of futility.’
     – Cora SirΓ©

‘Underlying the simplicity of Santos’s poems is a hard-earned wisdom and the courage of living with loss. Wherever they take you – Angkor or Lisboa, Paris or his backyard, his poems with their fragmented glimpses of connections will “feel real.” ’ 
    – Phoebe Wang

Greg Santos
Reading at The Earshot Reading Series
Video: Greg Santos


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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