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The Gospel according to Wild Indigo
by Cyrus Cassells
Southern Illinois University Press, 2018
Paper: 978-0-8093-3660-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3661-6
Library of Congress Classification PS3553.A7955A6 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54

Finalist for the Balcones Poetry Prize, 2018
Finalist for the Helen C. Smith Award for the Best Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters, 2019
Nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in Poetry, 2019

Consisting of two dynamic song cycles, Cyrus Cassells’s sixth poetry volume, The Gospel according to Wild Indigo, keeps the reader on edge with a timeless and beguiling feast of language that fuses together history, memory, and family.
The first cycle, rooted in the culture of the Gullah people of Charleston and the Sea Islands, celebrates the resilience of the rice- and indigo-working slaves and their descendants who have forged a unique Africa-inspired language and culture. Set against a Mediterranean backdrop, the second cycle explores themes of pilgrimage, love, and loss, concluding with a pair of elegies to the poet’s mother and the many men lost in the juggernaut of the AIDS crisis. Throughout, Cassells invites the reader to consider the duality of grief and love, as well as the shifting connections between past and present.
Cassells’s language is always striking, unpredictable, and beautiful, conjuring a world not only of “placid seagulls perched / in priest-gentle pines / like festive Christmas ornaments” but also one where “Death prevailed, / tireless as a forest partisan.” His poems transport the reader across time, space, and language, searching constantly not just for empathy but also for the human spirit in its triumph, for “our human joy, / laced with an ageless grieving.”

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