Confluence of influence
“If activities and people are assembled, it is possible for individual events… to stimulate one another. Participants in a situation have the opportunity to experience and participate in other events.” (Jan Gehl, Life Between Buildings) When positing this simple idea, Danish architect Jan Gehl was imagining the kinds of urban architectures and public spaces that can encourage confluence and assembly, yet this is exactly what Margaret Christakos has created through Influency Salon: a space and structure where, on one hand, poetries and poetic practices can assemble, interact, exchange, and then disperse, though altered and affected by this exchange, while on the other, the exchange itself engenders active participants, i.e. responsive and engaged readers.
Influency is a forum, assembly hall, meeting space where eight guest poets, of varied practices, appear over some weeks to present both their work and a complex response to the work of one of their colleagues. Influency is also a course through the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies’ Creative Writing program, where those registered not only read the poets’ work but actively engage, respond, write through it. Influency is also an online salon described by Christakos as “its own hungry room, curious about new readers and writers who might visit, comment, critique, and become engaged with us in thinking through contemporary poetry’s effects and impacts.”
Influency is a poetic project possibly at its most expansive form. It is a “book” with an open and fluid shape, where the letters are dialogues and pages are people. It is constantly expanding, though not linearly, but spatially and laterally and virtually. Influency allows for the convergence and divergence of ideas. Influency is movement and moving, creating avenues of poetic thinking, inquiring how something means, rather than what it means, and encouraging us all to join in the conversation.
Margaret Christakos has published eight collections of poetry and a novel, and has been active in the Toronto writing community since the late 1980s. Recent collections are Welling (Your Scrivener, 2010), What Stirs (Coach House, 2008) and Sooner (Coach House, 2005).
Influency has also led to the creation of RespondencyWest, a lecture and reading salon in Vancouver, facilitated by Jason Christie and Jordan Scott.
Photo credit: Anthony Burnham