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Multitudes

by Margaret Christakos

The title of Margaret Christakos’s latest volume of poetry is polyvalent on a number of levels: it speaks to the eclecticism of the book’s poetics; it alludes to Whitman; it references the work of philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; and it gestures toward the linguistic multitudes released through Christakos’s strategy of dismantling words and refiguring their fragments into new semantic and sonic possibilities.

Multitudes explores politics at the level of the grapheme, while at the same time responding to the social geographies and civic sensibilities of contemporary Toronto. “City Hall (Toronto) 2012,” dedicated to Jack Layton, seems to allude to recent renovations of Nathan Phillips Square, but also calls for a reclamation of the public square as commons, a “Civic property that belongs 2 no one.” One section, “Mounds,” includes an epigraph from the HBO television program Girls (Lena Dunham, the show’s creator, is a dedicatee of an earlier poem), and contains some of the collection’s most kick-ass sass: “I realized then I was writing an Atwood poem from 1978. Nobody says how brilliant and mean she was, how shitkicking.”

“Play,” the final section, reads at first as a variation on the journal form, but we soon realize Christakos has gleaned the poem from Facebook status updates. What is Facebook, though, if not a public version of a diary’s private self-construction, “an absolutely smeared space of the veiled / regaled and the displayed / played”? The journal mode usually gives us a glimpse into the domestic, but in Christakos’s work the public and private are emphatically not separate. Multitudes provides readers with a poetics well tuned to rearticulate an insistently present tense.