I grew up between two polarities: on the one hand, anxiety of influence, the necessity to seem utterly independent as an artist, to somehow divorce oneself from the progress of predecessors, to have a voice so completely, starkly unique; on the other hand, emulation of influence, the mistrust of own creative impetus, the drive to find another’s voice and try to copy and embody it, the need to disown personal force in favour of what has been done. Of course, both these examples are extremes and there is a beauteous middle ground, which I might call the generosity of influence. For me, influence is an acknowledgement of the work peers and predecessors are doing or have done; it is a move from isolated work into conversation between works; it is collaboration, communication, and credit; it is the strength which also drives new work to be produced, which creates a climate conducive to risk and creative exploration.
This Winter/Spring Issue of carte blanche celebrates Influence. To name only a few of the brilliant literary works across genres compiled in this new issue: Eliza Robertson, in her magnificent piece “The Aquanauts,” speculatively, poetically reworks and reframes lines from Adrienne Rich. In her rhythmically reminiscing poem “DNA,” Carol Rose GoldenEagle honours her Cree and Dene heritage, integrating language and “stories that flow through our strong bloodline.” Then, the Creative Non-Fiction essays in this issue provide short Influence Statements motivating the process leading up to their literary products. Here Shazia Hafiz Ramji writes evocatively and relevantly (and I’ll let her words conclude for me by circling back to the sense of generous influence I initially invoked): “The etymology of ‘influence’ has the sense of ‘a flow of water, a flowing in,’ but also an ‘emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny’ … there is no better description for what it feels like to write: the thing I am doing when I trust that deep friendship that reaches; the thing we do when we come close to others and so, come closer to ourselves.”
–Klara du Plessis