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.
As he approaches eighty, Turner Cassity may finally be out of control. His hatchet has never fallen more lethally, meaning if you have the stomach for him he is more enjoyable than ever. Under the blade come Martha Graham, Johann Sebastian Bach, musicologists, tree huggers, Frank Gehry, folk music, folk art of all times and all places, folk… . There are, however, his unpredictable sympathies: Edith Wilson, skyscrapers, Pontius Pilate, Pilate’s legionnaires.
If you think that Turner Cassity has mellowed or slowed down since the 1998 release of his selected poems, The Destructive Element, think again. In No Second Eden Cassity is back more Swiftian than ever. Among the targets reduced to ruin are countertenors, parole boards, the French Symbolists, calendar reformers, the Yale Divinity School, and the cult of Elvis. Without turning a blind eye, he even extends a toast to Wernher von Braun.
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.