Poetic Knockout: An interview with Greg Santos

rabbit_punchI first met professional poet Greg Santos back in my undergrad days at Concordia University in Montreal. We were both taking a fiction writing workshop where one of our fellow students decided to hand in a “story” completely comprised of AOL chat messages. I’m pretty sure we both thought this student had simply cut and pasted an actual chat transcript for us to read and critique that week, but in any case, it slowly exposed the difference between the students who gave a damn about writing and those who were just trying to get out of university with a degree in something.

Clearly, Greg was in the former camp. He always gave insightful critiques and offered helpful, encouraging words about whatever insane piece I presented to the class. In addition to writing lovely stories, he was also an agreeable editor. So it was no surprise when I heard he had taken up a post as Poetry Editor with Pax Americana and then began publishing books of poetry with DC Books, a Montreal publishing house founded by Louis Dudek.

His latest offering is a book of poetry entitled Rabbit Punch! (yes, with an exclamation mark!), which his publisher describes as “deliver[ing] a poetic KO.” He’s previously published The Emperor’s Sofa (2010), Tweet Tweet Tweet (2011) and the free ebook Featherslippery (2012), appealing to poetry and pop culture lovers through brief, entertaining pieces that will make you laugh as much as they make you cry or ponder the state of the world. I recently had a chance to catch up with Greg and ask him a few questions about writing, his literary influences, and what he’d write if he were in charge of the next summer blockbuster. Here’s what he had to say.

Quick! Who are your top 5 favorite authors or influences, and why?

Russell Edson: I wish I could live in Edson’s fables. I would be both enchanted and terrified.

Elizabeth Bishop: When I grow up, I’d like to write like Elizabeth Bishop. I could read her poetry forever. To me, she writes perfectly wrought poems.

Kenneth Koch: I’m a great admirer of all the New York School’s writers but Koch’s dedication to teaching poetry to students of all ages, particularly youth, really resonates with me. I also prefer his writing over O’Hara’s and Ashbery’s, as much as I do like them. Also, his last name rhymes with Coke. So he’s got that going for him.

Dean Young: Young’s poems are often hilarious, sad, and manic. All at the same time. He writes like I think. Or at least what I’d like to think I think like. Sigh. I think I’ve just gone cross-eyed… His prose book on writing poetry The Art of Recklessness is an inspiring read.

Fredrico Garcia Lorca: It sounds corny but I carried Lorca’s Poet in New York with me everywhere when I was a grad student in New York. I turn to his writings about duende whenever I need a poetic kick in the pants.

What type of writing fuel do you prefer, and what – if anything – do you feel this contributes to your creative process?

Tassimo coffee and lots of it. Coffee keeps me from devolving into a zombie throughout the day, so I’d say it’s of utmost importance for my creative output… and standing, walking, and doing the whole putting a sentence together thing.

Photo by Studio Duda

Photo by Studio Duda

What’s your sign?

Leo. Rawr.

Pirates or ninjas?

Ninja pirate. Hiyaar!

Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

The more you practice, the luckier you get.

If you were a cocktail, what would you be called?

An Old-Fashioned.

If you were to pen the screenplay for the next summer blockbuster, what would it be about?

A broody zombie hunter who only talks in verse and has wacky adventures in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. His spunky sidekick would be a wise-cracking raven. Imagine Edgar Allan Poe meets Mad Max. That would be awesome. Copyright that. Nobody steal my idea!

If you were to write an open letter to a famous author, who would it be, and what would it say?

Dear Ernest Hemingway, what’s with all the cats, bro?

Where can we find you on a typical Friday night, and what kind of trouble are you getting into there?

I’m normally at home. On the couch. Watching Netflix with my wife. One of us asking fearfully, “Did one of the kids just wake up?”

What are you currently working on, and why does it kick ass?

I’m recharging my batteries and doing a lot of reading right now. My second full-length collection of poems titled Rabbit Punch! just came out. I’m very proud of it and am still kind kinda dumbfounded that I have a second book out in the world. There are funny poems, dead animal poems, New York poems, some sad poems, zombie poems, celebrity persona poems featuring Paris Hilton, Batman, John McCain, UFC and current WWE star Brock Lesnar, Ernest Hemingway, and more. All the poems of the rainbow. Internet, won’t you take a chance and taste my poetic rainbow?

You can find out more about Greg at his blog, or check out his Rabbit Punch! Tumblr or Facebook page. He also tweets occasionally at @moondoggyspad.