The human half of the Holy Ghostboy, David Stavanger is Brisbane Square Library’s new Reader-in-Residence. I spoke to David to find out what this spoken word explorer has in store for our central Biblioteca.
ZENOBIA FROST: What was the book your forced your parents/babysitters/fairy godmother to read to you over and over as a child?
DAVID STAVANGER: The Story of Bip by Marcel Marceau. It is only lately I have realised what a subliminal influence it has been on the development of my alter-ego / other-self Ghostboy . . . not just in the look but even more so in the sense of play and absurdity of sadness. I also really loved Where the Wild Things Are and Green Eggs and Ham — again, both poetic, dealing in surreal imagery / other worlds and a sense of the outsider and their abandonment.
ZF: Can you name one book change you’d say changed your life or outlook when you read it?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I was in my late teens and it is just brimming with sex and the nature of desire, the way we ingest the world and what that does to us. I love its take on vanity and society too, and (later in life) these as a metaphor of self-doubt and the ongoing gratuitous need to be validated, noticed and loved by others. All artists should read it, then keep lying to themselves. [I stole Dorian Gray from the school library before it was remaindered and it had the same effect on me. — Z.]
Also, got to thank Mum for leaving the collected works and Bratsk Station by Yvengy Yevtushenko around at home. “Waiting” and “Colours” are two of my favourite love poems and “Weddings” still resonates as a great war poem for me.
ZF: Which letter in the alphabet is your favourite and why?
DS: I love V. Mainly because it was taken from my surname Stavanger, which had been truncated to Stanger in Australia back when. As Stavanger is a Viking name and that is my lineage, I decide to put it back via deed poll before I attacked any more villages. Also, villainous and vile and voluptuous rent in the same street.
ZF: The residency will deliver free workshops, competitions, events and performances. Tell me more!
DS: I came up with the idea based on a similar project that Edinburgh City Library in Scotland created about four years ago. I became good friends with Ryan Van Winkle, the poet behind the idea (we are bringing Ryan over to do a workshop, reading and installation as part of the project here). I went over and was mentored by Ryan in their program then spent months adapting and extending on it before pitching it to Brisbane Square Library as part of The Lord Mayor’s Writer-in-Residence initiative. And they said yes. The premise is kind of simple and direct — base a writer in a central library and get them to engage all library users with a chosen writing genre: in my case, poetry and spoken word.
I plan to use the Brisbane Square Library residency as a chance to spring poetry, in all its diverse forms, onto people. That includes me being a “live” reading and writing installation every Thursday, programmed and guerilla poetry performances throughout the building, workshops and collaborations with other local poets and artists, and even a poetry speed dating event so people can really get to know the poets in this town. We have some distinct voices and I have always been about poets getting more of their work out to people outside of the traditional poetry settings of the cafe reading or pub slam.
ZF: Where do you expect/hope to be (as a reader, as a writer, as a human, as a creature) at the end of the 12-month residency?
DS: Lots of things — I tend to start big then go bigger. Better to fall a long way than jump over the same picket fence. I am working on a number of possible legacy projects that are yet to get the green light but will involve a number of local poets; we will have given voice to the everyday poetry of the library via competitions and installations using text created by them; Brisbane Square will hopefully have one of the best poetry and spoken word collections in Australia; and more poets in Brisbane will not only see their work in Brisbane library catalogues but also borrow and read more poetry themselves (if poets aren’t, then why should anyone else?).
ZF: Which body part would you be willing to sell to fund your poetry? (Recently a Columbian poet announced he’d sell his testicles for $20000 to fund his upcoming tour.)
My kidney. I only have one and it is 90% fit, but man can it tell you some stories . . . plus, it would make for a great pie.
The year-long residency launches at Brisbane Square Library on 4 July, 2013, with live music from The Stress of Leisure and poetry from Eleanor Jackson and David Stavanger.