The Work of Cyrus Cassells: Black History Month in the Liberal Arts

Cyrus Cassells: Black History Month in the Liberal Arts

Cyrus Cassells is an award-award winning writer. He has won the National Poetry Series competition, the William Carlos William Award, two Pushcart Prizes, the Peter I.B. Lavan Younger Poet Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. In 2018, his book of poetry, The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work-Poetry. In 2019, he was elected to the Texas Institute of Letters. Cassells was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts for Poetry by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Cassells has written about the importance of African American poetry for the Poetry Society of America:

“Just as it was Phillis Wheatley’s and Frederick Douglass’ task to limn the dream of freedom with their whole beings and to move toward it, so it is our task, as today’s African American poets, to evoke the slave-holding past’s denigrating, soul-crushing weight. This symbiotic task is a distinctive feature of the work-that-must-be-done for contemporary poets of color. To grasp the complexities of our racially divisive present, we 21st-century word-workers are consistently impelled to explore the specter of the slave ship, the yoke, and the pitiless auction block.”

Cassells also is a translator, film critic, and actor. In 2019, he published Still Life with Children, a bilingual book of translations of work by Catalan poet Francesc Parcerisas.

It is worth taking time this Black History Month to read Cassell’s writing and poetry, which examines personal encounters with history, love, eroticism, suffering, and violence. Recently, Poetry International Online published a special feature of Cyrus Cassells’ border crisis poems. His poem “Altitude” was recently published online by the Academy of American Poets. The Courtland Review features Cassells reading his poems Snowy Cemetery and To Keep Watch over Our Language. His chapbook, More Than Watchmen At Daybreak, is due out from Nine Mile Books in April. Cassells will also be giving a reading at Texas State University on March 30.