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Poet Embraces the Mythology of the Midwest

courtesy of the author

"I remember being a child and driving down I-55," Milwaukee poet Brittany Cavallaro says, "and not being able to see anything out the window, except for these green stalks that were so thick that I couldn’t imagine what was on the other side of them.  It was almost like being in my very own fairy tale."

Cavallaro evokes a strong sense of place in her new collection, Girl King, through poems such as "At the Illinois State Fair," and "Mesocyclone".  But she says Girl King also aims to examine where she and other women fit in the Midwest.

"Ideas of landscape really informed this collection," she says.  "But also questions of what claim, as a woman, I would have to that landscape - questions of desire and sexuality, and of female agency.  I never really felt like I was in charge in any of these realms I found myself in."

Indeed, the title of Cavallaro's collection speaks to a central issue she wanted to explore.  "For me, the title has to do with the idea that the teenage girl - the most objectified, agent-less figure in American society - could be the one running the show. 

"In some ways," she says, "I think our obsession with youth does allow for a certain kind of sovereignty of the teenage girl, but I don't think it's the kind of sovereignty she actually wants."

It's a theme that also finds its way into the young adult novel Cavallaro is writing, due to be published next year. A Study In Charlotte will be the first in a series - a feminist retelling of the Sherlock Homes stories.

"Part of the reason why I wrote it," Cavallaro explains, "is that Sherlock Holmes seems to be the 'adaptation du jour.' We have so many different iterations, but nobody has thought to let the girl be the genius."

Brittany Cavallaro will talk and read from Girl King Thursday night (February 19) at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee.

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