Writer Catherine Fletcher's work was featured in issue #10 of Newtown Literary. Below, she discusses her influences. For more of Catherine’s work, check out her website.
Originally from Virginia, I’ve lived in New York a long time. Queens is my third borough of residence, and these days I write mostly poetry, but also drama and essays, from Jackson Heights. My favorite thing about Queens is its multilinguality. I love that, on any given week, I can pick up newspapers in Urdu or Korean just as easily as a newspaper in English and have spent hours staring at their typefaces and layout. The borough’s eclecticism suits me quite well and provides regular nuggets for my magpie mind. The artists I find inspiring are also an eclectic group and hail from variety of backgrounds. Here’s a partial hall of fame in no particular order.
20 ARTISTS WHO HAVE INSPIRED ME
Peter Greenaway, Welsh filmmaker—for his sense of taxonomy and patterns of repetition, use of lavish color, but mostly for demonstrating the possibilities of non-narrative narratives
Joni Mitchell, Canadian musician—for validating my extreme introspection as a young woman; for validating romantic failures and restlessness as subject matter; for besting her male contemporaries at their own game
Charles Olson, American poet (d. 1970)—for the expansive thinking of Projective Verse; for the combination of the mythic and the hyperpersonal/hyperlocal in his poetry
Mac Wellman, American playwright—for his unrelenting stream of weird-ass but highly thought-provoking ideas and his seeming knowledge of everything
Caridad Svich, American playwright—for her lyricism, her distinctive female characters, and her commitment to internationalism and cultural exchange
Teatr Biuro Podróży, Polish theater company—for creating the single most terrifying encounter with art I’ve ever had (theatrical vignettes echoing the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia) and for giving me a touchstone to which I can return should I care to create similar effects with my work
R.E.M., American musicians—for capturing a deeply familiar South, a land of languid yearning; for songs that take pleasure in the impenetrable
Talking Heads, American musicians—for creating the soundtrack of the New York I moved to and for continuing to keep me amped when my energy is lagging
Isabel Allende, Chilean-American writer—for the infectious sense of delight that permeates her novels
Simin Behbahani, Iranian poet (d. 2014)—for demonstrating how to work inside one’s own (patriarchal) poetic tradition and how to reinvent its forms and themes from a woman’s point of view
Natasha Sajé, American poet—for her breath-driven lines
Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer (d. 1986)—for infinite libraries, webs of time, dialogues between cultures and eras
George Clooney, American actor—for his tenacity and faith in his own talent; for his ability to weather participation in projects of… questionable merit
Mariano Del Rosario, American painter—for his ability to make art from nearly any kind of material and to find the creative impulse in nearly every individual
Ursula K. LeGuin, American writer—for unnaming things
William Gibson, American-Canadian writer—for introducing us to cyberpunk and cyberspace, and for his Twitter feed (@GreatDismal) as well as for his obscure Virginia references
Werner Herzog, German filmmaker—for his exploration of human creativity, its Paleolithic origins, and its contemporary limits; for his DIY ethos
Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poet (d. 1935)—for his multivocality—Whitman’s “multitudes” pale in comparison
Albert Camus, French writer (d. 1960)—for his unflagging commitment to the dignity of the individual and the importance of personal freedom
Paul Simon, American musician—my favorite Queens artist; for creating cultural touchstones I can walk to and for keeping me feeling groovy
Writers who have a complex relationship with their own traditions, like Simin Behbahani, are proving especially inspirational these days as I rewrite a series of poems on the South, past and present. I’m also writing a series of poems in email format on hacking, espionage, and the cyber bears—taking most of my inspiration from William Gibson for subject matter and Peter Greenaway for structure.