Ghost Face by Greg Santos
(Montreal, QC: DC Books, 2020, $15.45 CDN, 84 pages.)
Review by Eleni Zisimatos
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 it cannot be interpreted.
A first notion of this is connected with identity. Santos strains to find a self in Santos’ history, but encounters uncertainty, a lack of what may be seen as a true origin. With multiple family strands, the “ghosts of identity” are absorbed in the author’s sense of being-in-the-world. But this can also be said of nearly everyone: what is our true origin, can we follow the line back to our umbilical cord (refer- enced by Santos) in the womb? Who are we, really?
A second thread of ghostliness in Ghost Face pursues the memories of his father. There is a great sense of loss and sadness throughout the book. It is best described, as Santos has said, by the Portuguese term, “Saudade,” meaning “the presence of absence.”
This intense longing to know that which is absent—a loved one or one’s own self—while mirrors laugh at our futile attempts to grasp it—is a marvel in Santos’s poetry. And it is with great skill that Santos is able to depict and summarize what can be said about the human condition: “I’ve come to glean fragments, which I’m only now piecing together.”
Greg Santos is a poet, editor, and educator. He is the author of Blackbirds, Rabbit Punch!, and The Emperor’s Sofa. He is the Editor-in- Chief of carte blanche magazine. He lives in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal with family. His newest full-length collection, Ghost Face, is forthcoming with DC Books.
Eleni (Helen) Zisimatos is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Vallum. She has recently published a book of poetry, Nearly Terminal. She lives in Montreal (Tiohtià:ke), QC.