Thursday, June 11, 2009


Last night was the last class for Influency 6, A Toronto Poetry Salon. For the past 11 weeks I've been spending my Wednesday evenings enjoying poetry, listening as one poet introduces the featured poet's work and then hearing the poets read aloud from their own collections. Fellow "influencers" spoke of their "wonderments" and insights, and wrote eloquently about their reactions and interpretations of the poems.

I've always felt poems are far more than flat letters on a page — meant to be spoken more than silently read. Seeing/hearing/talking/sharing insights enriches the experience. This course deepened that appreciation.

Sometimes it was overwhelming... we read a volume of poetry each week and there were probably hundreds of pages of responses shared via email between classes. Sometimes it was intimidating because responses were so piercing or people had seen things I had completely missed. Often it was frustrating — how could someone like/not like that phrase? What did the poet intend by that, exactly? If I didn't like something was it because I just wasn't trying hard enough to "get" it? How hard should I have to try, anyway? Did I need to understand all those references to the Romantic poets to properly appreciate the piece?

The poets and collections included:
Jacqueline Larson's Salt Physic (Pedlar)
Sina Queryas's Expressway (Coach House)
M. NourbeSe Philip's Zong! (Mercury/Wesleyan)
Glen Downie's Loyalty Management (Wolsak & Wynn)
Adam Sol's Jeremiah, Ohio (Anansi)
Billeh Nickerson's The Asthmatic Glassblower (Arsenal Pulp)
Sue Sinclair's Breaker (Brick)
Phill Hall's White Porcupine (Book Thug)

I admit to starting the course looking for the 'right' way to go about responding. Margaret Christakos did a brilliant job as instructor. By the end I had relinquished any notion that there was one 'right' way, there were many different ways to look at the poems.

I know I will be spending months going over these collections and people's notes and enjoying my own ponderings. If my Wednesdays weren't already booked for the Fall term I might have signed up for Influency 7. I can't recommend the course highly enough, it is amazing — and it just may change the way you look at a poem forever.

No comments: