I picked up the Paris Review interview with Luc Sante again. I read in bits and pieces. Although I have time now for sustained reading, for the past few years I have not. This caused me to get into the habit of reading for a few minutes at a time. Sante was asked in this bit (byte?) I read today about density, that is, creativity sparked by living in a densely populated urban neighbourhood and especially one that had a mix of social classes and ethnicities. I know density of a different sort is said to be true of creativity in the software industry – silicon valley, or in Canada, Waterloo, Ontario. The interviewer was talking about New York and Paris, and the literary scenes there, but this is the same thing as silicon valley.
But, is it true for writing? I’m not so sure as both reading and writing are essentially solitary activities. You do write for others, but there are no flesh and blood others in the room as you write. The same goes for reading. While others may be present in the same space, they are not reading the same thing along with you.
Is it necessary to spark creativity? I’m not so sure of this either. When I was a boy, my family lived in what were then called WASP neighbourhoods in the suburbs. Neat lawns (except ours!), newish side splits, ranch style, Georgian etc etc houses, driveways, shopping centres. Somewhere on the edges were places and creatures of the sort shown on mediaeval maps, ‘there be monsters here’. I knew them or their geographies not.
I wrote free verse poetry. I wrote free verse because I loathed iambic pentameter and all its breed. I loathed those long, turgid 19th century poems we were forced to parse in endless English Lit classes in High School.
I encountered the work of Leonard Cohen; I cannot remember how as he certainly was not studied in High School. For that lacuna, I am grateful as Leonard Cohen became a bright, leaping light to me. I used some of the first money I ever earned at a part time job buying ‘Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems 1956-1968′. This along with an unexpurgated copy of the poems of Catullus secreted away in my High School library are my only poetic influences, except maybe ‘e e cummings’ who did have something in a High School text.
Now I live in a city neighbourhood, no New York or Paris, but a rough, post-industrial town where the near wealthy and those scraping by live cheek by jowl. This oddity of a city has a great swathe of forested cliff running through the urban landscape. I live near the edge of this where I can walk and view half shuttered steel mills and emptied factories and 19th century neighbourhoods through a veil of wild trees, hares, squirrels and racoons. This too, has not influenced my creativity except as an occasional tool. I do like to take snapshots with my phone camera and then write a poem based on the picture. I write also when visiting friends in rural Wisconsin. But I still write as I did when I lived in suburbia. This comes from me, and from being an outsider, I think.
I am not part of any literary scene. I hover on the edges, looking at The Alliance of Independent Authors site, and popping into art galleries whenever I can. But I do not belong anywhere.
So, no, density has nothing to do with it for me.