Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Margaret Christakos

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Ten Questions with Margaret Christakos

Margaret Christakos is the award-winning author of seven acclaimed poetry collections and a novel, Charisma (Pedlar Press, 2000), shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award. She teaches creative writing and runs ‘Influency: A Toronto Poetry Salon’ at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Her collection, Sooner (Coach House Books, 2005), was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award. The launch for her latest poetry collection, What Stirs (Coach House Books), is on Thursday, November 6 at David Mirvish Books. See our events page for details.

OB:

Tell us about your book, What Stirs.

MC:

This is a poetry book that comes at you like a question and a statement, simultaneously. Also a fragment, which leads to … wherever you take it. My thinking has roved in the fields of meaning, how we all think we are so entitled to get everything immediately, without a whole lot of labour. But why? Why not reside in the solace that you just might get, as the Stones said, what you need? The first move is yours to make toward the book, to bring your own interest and curiosity into its spaces and suggestions. I set a trail in place, dress it with opals. Maybe you’ll see the glimmer.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

MC:

I am interested in a range of readers. I value youth, and the elders. I value readers with a background in reading dusjunctive literature, in accessing its multiple entendres, and also I value individuals who decide, one day, that, that’s it, they’d like more poetry in their lives.

OB:

What poets got you interested in poetry?

MC:

What stirs first, the Cohen or the Donne? Once bpNichol arrived, I was in love.

OB:

What was your first publication?

MC:

Can’t remember. But let’s say it was the poems I published in raddle moon, a westcoast journal affiliated with innovative poetics.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MC:

Subway bursting at the gills. Or sitting on warm rock on a shore. And hot cups. Also other poets, muttering in the aisles.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

MC:

The word “now.” Own, won. One. Eon. Neo. Etc. A great personal narrative text called The Transformation by Juliana Spahr. And M. NourbeSe Philip’s amazing Zong!

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

MC:

I’d invite a recent arrivant into an independent bookstore and ask them to choose their own. The notion that the same three books should be packaged as a general sign of Here irks me deeply.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

MC:

I’m not sure I can recall advice. I have noticed a certain look in many writers’ eyes though, a look when they are holding their book and reading from it in public, that suggests the occupation is valid, and even, vivid.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

MC:

One woman remembered having been assaulted after hearing a line repeated in a poem in my second book. She’d blocked her experience out, and then my piece was speaking about “the rubble,” the kind of sound that footfall makes on gravel, and memory flooded back to her. This felt like an extraordinary intimacy. Other readers come up and say, your works gives me encouragement to write in new ways; I like that.

OB:

What is your next project?

MC:

I’ve got two novels on the go, one about maternal rage and babysitters as surrogate moms, and another about impotence and remoteness lurking under the glitzy surface of our high-stim society. And I’m slowly working toward shaping an anthology of essays and commentaries out of “Influency: A Toronto Poetry Salon,” one of the courses I facilitate at the U of T School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing program.




"Margaret Christakos, poet of labour, is in addition a brilliant thinker on sexuality and its uses. [Her 2006 chapbook] Adult Video takes on the antiseptics and anapestics of a male-drive Oulipean procedural vision, and pulls them inside out until, finally, something ratty and valuable lets itself show and moan." - Kevin Killian


Read more about What Stirs at the Coach House Books website.

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