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Drawing Inspiration From Heritage and Art

In his acclaimed work as poet, performer, and cultural commentator, Texas State University English Professor Cyrus Cassells is always seeking to bring different voices into the spotlight.

Cyrus Cassells through the window of his office

Winner of a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2019 NAACP Image Award nominee for his poetry, his work is filled with the timeless themes of identity and heritage, love and loss, tragedy and redemption.

“Everybody deserves a place at the cultural table, and that’s too often been difficult for women, LGBTQIA, and minority voices. We need diverse views and viable representation at all levels of art and culture in order for our country to heal,” Cassells said.

Both as a poet and as a researcher, he is often drawn to languages that help define and preserve cultural identities. His latest book, for example, Still Life With Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas, is a bilingual translation of the renowned Catalan poet.

Cyrus Cassells in black and white

Cassells’ most recent poetry collection, The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, was inspired by his research into the Gullah language, spoken by the Gullah people of coastal Georgia and the Carolinas.  The book was a finalist for both the 2019 Best Book of Poetry by the Texas Institute of Letters and the 2018 Balcones Poetry Prize for Outstanding Book of the Year.

In more than 20 years teaching at Texas State, he says the university has grown as a vibrant and supportive home for the arts and an environment that inspires artists and draws creative people to Central Texas.

“Our highly acclaimed Therese K. Lindsey reading series on campus, as well as the Katherine Anne Porter House, brings to Central Texas some of the finest and most impressive writers and scholars in the country, and this is a continual source of inspiration for both faculty and students,” Cassells said.

Cyrus Cassells stands at a podium at a poetry reading

 

In addition to his recent accolades,
Cassells’ poetry has been featured in over

30 anthologies

and earned him 2 National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Pushcart Prize.

 

He is also the chair of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry.