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Cyrus Cassells

1957–

In 1957 Cyrus Cassells was born in Dover, Delaware. He grew up in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, California. He began writing poetry in high school. Cassels received a BA from Stanford University in 1979.

He is the author of The Gospel According to Wild Indigo (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018); The Crossed-Out Swastika (Copper Canyon Press, 2012); More Than Peace and Cypresses (Copper Canyon Press, 2004); Beautiful Signor (Copper Canyon Press, 1997), which won the Lambda Literary Award; Soul Make a Path Through Shouting (Copper Canyon Press, 1994), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and received the William Carlos Williams Award; and The Mud Actor (Henry, Holt & Co., 1982), which was a National Poetry Series selection.

Cassells is the recipient of a 1995 Pushcart Prize, the Peter I.B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has worked as a translator, film critic, actor, and teacher.

He is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, lives in Austin and teaches at Texas State University.


Selected Bibliography

The Gospel According to Wild Indigo (Southern Illinois University Press)
The Crossed-Out Swastika (Copper Canyon Press, 2012)
More Than Peace and Cypresses (Copper Canyon Press, 2004) 
Beautiful Signor (Copper Canyon Press, 1997)
Soul Make a Path Through Shouting (Copper Canyon Press, 1994)
The Mud Actor (Henry, Holt & Co., 1982)

 

Cyrus Cassells

By This Poet

3

Return to Florence

How do I convey the shoring gold
at the core of the Florentine bells’
commingled chimes?

Vast as a suddenly revealed
field of wheat,
that up-and-away gold
is equivalent to the match-burst
morning I returned,
intent as doubting Thomas,
to my old classroom terrace,
open to the showy, blue yes
of the bustling Arno,
to my timeless, sun-laved
Basilica of Santo Spirito,
and discovered
ebullient citizens reciting,
at a hundred different posts,
the same unbetraying passage
of Dante’s Paradise.
 

The World That the Shooter Left Us

                                                       (Stand Your Ground)
 
In this one, ladies and gentlemen,
Beware, be clear: the brown man,
 
The able lawyer, the paterfamilias,
Never makes it out of the poem alive:
 
The rash, all-too-daily report,
The out of the blue bullet
 
Blithely shatters our treasured
Legal eagle’s bones and flesh—
 
In the brusque spectacle of point-blank force,
On a crimsoned street,
 
Where a revered immigrant plummets
Over a contested parking spot,
 
And the far-seeing sages insist,
Amid strident maenads
 
Of at-the-ready patrol car sirens,
Clockwork salvos,
 
The charismatic Latino lawyer’s soul
Is banished, elsewhere, without a shred
 
Of eloquence in the matter—
And the brute, churning
 
Surfaces of the world,
They bear our beloved citizen away—
 
Which means, austere saints
And all-seeing masters,
 
If I grasp your bracing challenge:
At our lives’ most brackish hour,
 
Our highest mission isn’t just to bawl,
But to turn the soul-shaking planet
 
Of the desecrated parking lot
(The anti-miracle),
 
The blunt, irascible white man’s
Unnecessary weapon,
 
And the ruse of self-defense
Into justice-cries and ballots?
 
Into newfound pledges and particles of light?

in memory of J. Garza, 1949-2017

Altitude

You’ve just died in my arms,
But suddenly it seems we’re eternal

Cali boys, Afro-haired cohorts in crime,
Racing through intricate lattices

Of quince and lemon tree shadows,
Corridors of Queen Anne’s lace—

On the skip-church Sunday you dubbed me
“Sir Serious” instead of Cyrus—

Then, swift as a deer’s leap, we’re devotees
Of goatees and showy Guatemalan shirts,

Intoxicated lovers for a month
On the northwest coast of Spain—

Praising the irrepressible sounds
Of a crusty Galician bagpiper

On La Coruña’s gripping finisterre,
Then gossiping and climbing

(Like the giddy Argonauts we were)
The lofty, ancient Roman lighthouse,

All the way—Keep on truckin’, we sang—
To the top of the Tower of Hercules—  

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