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No Girls No Telephones

Publication Date: September 2014


Brittany Cavallaro and Rebecca Hazelton began with the proposition that the opposite of a dream song might be waking speech. Or a sleepless anthem. Or wakeful silence. Then they reversed that notion, and reversed it again. Through an intrepid, always devoted, often cheeky engagement with John Berryman’s The Dream Songs, the 26 poems in No Girls No Telephones strike out for an unmapped horizon where ruined fairy stories, dreams, and self-deception all collide in a perfect storm of “the possibility of Past and Perfect” and “the certainty of the Now and New.” These poems are no mere act of homage. Suggestive of the brittle aspirations, illusions, and delusions that permeate our everyday lives, No Girls No Telephones invites us into a world where, “naïve on the rim / of a glass teacup$$ men and women exist at odds with one other and with a frighteningly indifferent, fiercely beautiful world.


Dirt clods at midnight, Vidalia weeps love
as the sea sucks in the pugilists
like a open-mouthed boat. Less, then, less river,
more canyon, at the apex
the watch falls to sleeping. Naïve on the rim
of a glass teacup,

the one I desire. Nightshuffle and run,
parch and rise, in the dark we curse
for some to wick, snuff out
when we do. Just then on leave without pay
the skyscrapers regularized and quiet
as disgust.

Later, not now, the dirt coughs us up
like nitrogen, and we sit miles above
and we laugh. There is peace
and there are stars, there is
the solid fact
that now we are better than the dead.


The poems in this chapbook stay with me, ringing in my ears, burrowing into my head. The language is extremely physical, sharp – often painfully so. The voices grapple with basic human emotions, rooting in images that sear, unafraid to spread rhetorical wings (“O enemies”) or make jaw-dropping assertions (“Everyone is an informer”). The poems move from innocence to experience, then back to innocence again, risking absurdity (“This fox was the real deal, like a white swan”), drawing wild, fresh conclusions (“You have the answer, sir”), always jerking the reader to attention, entertaining, informing. This collection of poems is obviously the work of gifted young poets with a kind of wit and wisdom that gives, that will keep on giving.

-Jay Parini, author of The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems, The Passages of H.M., and Why Poetry Matters

I am licked bright” by the poems in No Girls No Telephones, a complex and innovative undertaking of the childhood game “telephone” in which Berryman’s poems are channeled through one poet before being filtered again through one more ear, so that the poems while echoing the previous text, undergo radical transformation. In this exquisite pas de deux with Berryman as choreographer and Hazelton and Cavallaro as the skillful dancers, each poem unfurls into something new, something wondrous. Though the poems arise out of the poetic ancestry of Berryman, they spotlight “the certainty of the Now and the New.” This strange and dazzling duet splits you open and allows a new horizon to sink in. Revel in its incandescence.

-Simone Muench, author of Orange Crush, Trace, and Wolf Centos

About the Authors

Brittany Cavallaro

Brittany Cavallaro is the author of Girl-King (University of Akron Press, 2015). Her poems have  appeared in AGNI, Gettysburg Review, Tin House, and Best New Poets 2011. She is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Vermont Studio Center. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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Rebecca Hazelton

Rebecca Hazelton is the author of Fair Copy (Ohio State University Press, 2012), winner of the 2011 Ohio State University Press / The Journal Award in Poetry, and Vow, from Cleveland State University Press, 2013. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Smartish Pace, and Best American Poetry 2013.

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