Cyrus Cassells at Round Top Poetry Festival, May 2012

Round TopCyrus Cassells

b. 1957

Poet and translator Cyrus Cassells was born in 1957 in Delaware and earned a BA from Stanford University. Cassells is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including the National Poetry Series winning The Mud Actor (1982),Soul Make a Path through Shouting (1994), which won the William Carlos Williams Prize and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Beautiful Signor (1997), which won a Lambda Literary Award, More Than Peace and Cypresses (2004), and The Crossed-Out Swastika (2012). A book of his translations of the Catalan poet Francesc Parcerisas, Still Life With Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas, is forthcoming.

Awarded the National Poetry Series when he was just 23, Cassells’s poetry is cosmopolitan in spirit, examining the influence of history, place, and memory on identity. As he told Contemporary Authors: My poetry is deeply rooted in my world travels and spiritual questing; it is characteristically panoramic, multicultural, and internationalist in spirit. I consider myself an African-American seeker, ambassador, and citizen of the world.” Cassells’s book The Crossed-Out Swastika tells the stories of both fictional and real-life young Europeans caught in the violence and terror of World War II. His highly acclaimed second book, Soul Make a Path through Shouting, also treats world historical events through the lens of individual experience. Speaking to the Texas State University magazine, Cassells admitted:I only slowly evolved the work that became Soul Make a Path Through Shouting… It is a cycle of poems concerned with spiritual endurance set in several different places in the world, including war-torn Afghanistan, Central and Latin America, Catalonia, Soviet Russia, Italy and America during the civil rights movement and the AIDS crisis. This was a very serious project for a young poet, and I revised it many, many times in order to do justice to the testimony that came to me from several different survivors of war, illness and persecution. I wondered at points if I was up to the task of conveying these intense experiences in poetry. It was a very, very difficult process. I had to decide for myself if I was really a poet.”

Cassells has received a Lannan Literary Award, two NEA grants, and a Pushcart Prize. He is professor of English at Texas State University-San Marcos and has served on the faculty of Cave Canem. He divides his time between Austin, New York City, and Paris, and works on occasion in Barcelona as a translator of Catalan poetry.