Reviewing is a labour of love, and in this case the labour was a long one — elephantine in fact — nearly two years gestation! Thank heavens this review popped out in the end, of David Stavanger’s intriguing poetry collection, The Special:
This book is dedicated to the dead
who are bravely living
(and to those who wake wild-eyed in the dark)
So begins David Stavanger’s first full length collection, The Special, published by UQP as wining manuscript of the 2013 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. As the dedication suggests, this book is an unsettling read; one feels, intentionally so. The poems deal with what is dark and broken in the human psyche, informed, presumably, by the poet’s own personal and professional experiences with mental illness. This is Stavanger’s first serious foray into the world of ‘page’ as opposed to ‘performance’ poetry (a distinction he eschews), the leap between these two hotly fought over territories no doubt entailing a certain risk of the poems falling flat on the page. Yet while the book may, on first reading, appear somewhat stylistically and tonally ‘flat’, upon deeper reading it becomes clear that this has less to do with Stavanger’s poetry not transitioning well onto the page, and more to do with the nature of what the poet is trying to achieve. When exploring states of mind such as depression or psychosis, an emotionally disconnected, disjointed, or even dissociated style of poetry may indeed be the perfect mode of expression…
If this tickles your fancy, please read the rest over at the wonderful Mascara Literary Review, where you can also enjoy their latest issue comprising some of the finest writing in the land. A huge thanks to editor Michelle Cahill, who works hard to support the publication of a diverse range of Australian Literature.