Cyrus Cassells was born in Dover, Delaware in 1957. He grew up in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. He began writing poetry in high school. Cassells received a BA from Stanford University in film & broadcasting in 1979.
He is the author of Is There Room for Another Horse on Your Horse Ranch? (Four Way Books, 2024), which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series; The World That the Shooter Left Us (Four Way Books, 2022); More Than Watchmen at Daybreak (Nine Mile Books, 2020); 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. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2019), translated from the Catalan, was awarded the Texas Institute of Letters Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translated Book of 2018 and 2019. In 2019, Cassells was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for his film and television reviews in the Washington Spectator.
A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, Cassells lives in Austin and teaches at Texas State University, where he received a 2021 Presidential Award for Scholarly/Creative Activities. In 2021, he was appointed Texas poet laureate, and in 2022, Cassells received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.
In 2022, Cyrus Cassells was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. In honor of Juneteenth, Cassells will hold a poetry contest for students in grades six through twelve across the state that encourages them to explore what makes the day significant. Final judges will be Texas poets Wendy Barker, Jennifer Chang, Amanda Johnston, and Roger Reeves, as well as Texas historian Martha Hartzog. The contest will end with a public reading and ceremony at the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin, which has fostered several African American events and cultural exhibitions and features the city of Austin's only intact slave cabin. The ten winning students will receive travel stipends to the Austin ceremony. The judges, screeners, top three winners, and seven honorable mentions will each receive an honorarium, plus copies of Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Reed’s book On Juneteenth and Edward Cotham Jr.'s Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration.