Turner Cassity is like a highly accomplished traditional composer—Camille Saint-Saëns, say, or Richard Strauss—who does not doubt that the music is the score and the score is the music. That is, poetry is verse and verse is poetry.
Given that confidence, he is prepared to take on any subject. In the forty years he has been publishing, Mr. Cassity has never once written about nothing. Without being predictable, his material nevertheless has certain orientations: colonialism, the military, the Sun Belt, popular culture, Biblical figures, the Muslim countries, architecture, technology, banking...Although he can be a relentless satirist—idealists are repeatedly savaged—he has surprising sympathies. NCO Clubs should erect a monument to him.
Now and then he writes a personal poem, though one suspects it is with some effort. Most of his oeuvre is very impersonal third person. Mr. Cassity’s work makes one realize that there is a difference between a truly intellectual poem and a mindless poem on an intellectual subject.
Although the author suggested that students of Western Imperialism would have a special interest in this book, we would recommend it to readers of first-rate contemporary poetry as well.
Turner Cassity was born in 1929 in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of seven collections of poetry and the recipient of numerous prizes and awards. He retired in 1991 as a catalog librarian at the R. W. Woodruff Library, Emory University.
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