Review: Rabbit Punch! by Greg Santos

Front cover of Rabbit Punch!

By Klara du Plessis

This summer was the season of book releases by local writers in Montreal. Slowly but surely I’ll be posting a series of short reviews on a handful. First up is Greg Santos’ collection of poems Rabbit Punch! 

Santos, Greg. Rabbit Punch! Montreal: DC Books, 2014.

The dictionary explains that a rabbit punch is a blow to the neck or base of the skull, especially dangerous because is could cause permanent spinal damage. Greg Santos’ new collection of poems, Rabbit Punch!, is dangerous in a Bugs Bunny kind of way. Poem after poem the reader is hit over the head with a fast-paced barrage of images that cohere mostly in rhymes like “Poffo” and “boffo” (“I may be macho but I’m no genius” 36). This punch will leave the reader intoxicated.

Santos is at his best when he focuses on popular culture, substantiating contemporary iconography in a way, which familiarizes poetry to a readership that probably grew up considering it as an elite artform. His project is to elevate cartoons, movie stars, Facebook…to the status of literary allusion. He attempts to kick poetry off of its pedestal of difficulty and into a realm of pure entertainment. When T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound get drunk together at a bar called Hooters (“A wild night at Hooters” 46), one has to laugh at how their Modernist erudition has been transposed to a present-day world where zombies, The Cranberries and Rob Zombie make for a successful word game (“Zombies” 40). These poems are all playful. Even when articulating meta-poetic commentary, Santos sides against food for thought, rather composing verse with “crumbs around the corner of my mouth […] I eat poetry like potato chips” (“The disease is its remedy” 75).

The poetry in Rabbit Punch! doesn’t run on sound; it isn’t prose or narrative-based; it isn’t philosophical; it isn’t open field on the page…yet in minor ways it is all of these possibilities and more at once. This collection of poems engages with the stereotype of the internet age, the mind not standing still to articulate, but rather jumping around between different topics, different emotions, different poetic preoccupations. So much could be read between the lines that little is expressed for certain. Instead, “I am a blank search engine. / I am a blinking cursor” (“Brids of a feather flock together” 65) – search and you will find.

Greg Santos is the author of The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010) and the chapbooks Tweet Tweet Tweet (Corrupt Press, 2011) and Oblivion Avenue (Trainwreck Press, 2008). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School in Manhattan.