Sunday, May 08, 2005

Cyrus Cassells reading

Dean and I went to hear Cyrus Cassells read last night at Elliott Bay from his new book, More Than Peace and Cypresses. I loved his second book Soul Make a Path Through Shouting, with it's amazing title poem about the young black girl walking through the heckling crowd of racists on the first day of school integration, and I had read parts of his new book in the bookstore, but hadn't yet connected with it; his reading took care of that. More Than Peace and Cypresses is a heart-felt exploration of spiritual and artistic fathers, incited by the recent death of his own father. Cassells writes about the spiritual/artistic "fathers" he has found in Lorca, Van Gogh, Pavese, Pasolini, etc; and has many lyrical moments exploring the countryside in Italy and Spain. The seven poem sequence "Sons and Violets," which recounts his father's illness and death from cancer (sounds like he was a stern military man whom Cassells both feared and admired), is stunning. And the live reading of the poems (Cassells, who is also an actor, has a deep, throaty resonant voice), along with the brief asides about their origin, really helped the poems come to life for me. There was a small intimate audience, so I was able to chat with Cyrus a little before and after the reading; and he is a truly warm and sensitive man. He is working on a new book, with a working title of "The Gospel According to Indigo" (what a title!) and told me he has a Kafka poem in it inspired by my "Kafka's Grave" poem in Saying the World. I was so flattered.

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