If you like poetry, or are interested in learning more about it, Margaret Christakos would love to hear from you.
A 20-year veteran of the Toronto poetry scene, Christakos created Influency: A Toronto Poetry Salon for the University of Toronto’s school of continuing studies to reach members of the public who might be intrigued by poetry, but don’t know where to begin. “A lot of people feel like they just don’t get it,” she says.
The salon takes place over a period of 10 weeks. During the first class, Christakos meets students and introduces the eight Toronto-based poets they will be studying. Past guests have included Griffin prize nominee Karen Solie and former Toronto poet laureate Dennis Lee.
During subsequent evenings, a guest poet-critic gives a 40-minute talk on the poet being studied, which is followed by a half-hour reading by the featured poet. Later, the poet-critic will return as the featured poet, meaning each of the guest poets visit twice. “You get to know them quite well,” says Christakos.
“It’s very exciting because after the first few weeks people realize, ‘Oh, wow, this isn’t hard at all. It’s actually really interesting,’” Christakos says.
So far, more than 40 poets have taken part. This year’s guests include Governor General’s award nominee Ken Babstock and novelist M. NourbeSe Philip.
“Poetry really is for the general public,” Christakos says. “It can illuminate our lives. Many of us just need a hand through the door.”
Influency: a Toronto Poetry Salon runs from April 1 until June 3.