NEA Literature Fellowships

Brittany Cavallaro

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(2015 - Poetry)

"Pastiche with Lines from Conan Doyle"

I have pinpointed the particular flaw
                       in our relations: it’s how you transpose
            each small riot into sadness but have
no Stradivarius to mourn on—you have my ears,

                       and my feet freeze in our bed,
             and the knocking in the night is
just a dear friend looking to score, our cat
                        is named for a knave. We tweak

            our epaulets, we make margaritas
in rooms populated by the ephemera
                        of other lives that I cannot shore up
my own against. This fashion rag

tells me to think of the highlands
                       so I eye-drop water into my Laphroaig
            and when later, for work, I stand
on the Scottish street on which I once lived,

                        it is blue melodrama or it is
            not real, and if the stories tally
I’ll watch it again on the plane. This may appeal
                        to your lurid taste in fiction,

            darling: I am your constant companion,
and we have never both lived within these same walls.

Brittany Cavallaro is the author of Girl-King (University of Akron Press, 2015), which was the Editor’s Choice for the 2013 Akron Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a Rona Jaffe Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her young adult novel, A Study in Charlotte, is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in March 2016. She lives in Wisconsin.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Cavallaro

Author's Statement

This fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts will go so incredibly far in funding my research and travel for my second manuscript of poems. My first collection, Girl-King, included a sequence written in dramatic monologue, in which I explored the perspectives of the victims and perpetrators of the 1828 Burke and Hare murders in Edinburgh. In this new manuscript, Unhistorical, I plan to continue working in this mode, and am busily writing an Edwardian murder mystery in various voices. This funding will allow me to travel and research this sequence in a way I couldn’t afford to before—to see my imagined landscapes made real, to pore over documents I couldn’t otherwise access.

In addition to undertaking this planned work, I am anticipating the unplanned work as well. The ability to travel alone and in one’s head, free from financial concerns, is an incredible gift and one I plan to take full advantage of.

I don’t remember a single word I said when I received my phone call from the NEA. What I do know is that I was, and am, profoundly grateful for the support, the encouragement, and the gift of time.