Academy of American Poets names Cyrus Cassells 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow

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Jayme Blaschke | August 24, 2022

black and white photo of cyrus cassells

Cyrus Cassells, a professor in the Department of English at Texas State University, has been named a 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets.

Cassells is one of 22 new fellows named by the academy, each of whom will receive $50,000. All honorees have been named poets laureate of states, cities and counties, and have made positive contributions to their communities in these roles and beyond. Funds will support their respective public poetry programs in the year ahead as presented in their proposals to the Academy. In addition, the Academy will provide a total of $72,200 to eight local 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that have agreed to support the fellows’ proposed projects. 

The author of nine poetry collections, Cassells is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2021, he was named Texas Poet Laureate by the Texas State Legislature.

In honor of Juneteenth, Cassells will hold a poetry contest for students in grades six through 12 across the state that encourages them to explore what makes the day significant. Final judges will be Texas poets Wendy Barker, Jennifer Chang, Amanda Johnston and Roger Reeves, as well as Texas historian Martha Hartzog. The contest will end with a public reading and ceremony at the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin, which has fostered several African American events and cultural exhibitions and features the city of Austin's only intact slave cabin. The 10 winning students will receive travel stipends to the Austin ceremony. The judges, screeners, top three winners and seven honorable mentions will each receive an honorarium, plus copies of Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Reed’s book On Juneteenth and Edward Cotham Jr.'s Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration.

The public position of poet laureate began in 1919 when Gov. Oliver Shoup appointed Alice Polk Hill the Poet Laureate of Colorado. Fifteen other states followed suit, all establishing poet laureate positions by 1936. A similar national position was created when the Library of Congress named Joseph Auslander its first Consultant in Poetry in 1937. This position was renamed the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985. On July 12, 2022, Ada Limón was named the 24th poet to serve in this capacity, succeeding Joy Harjo. 

Poets laureate at state and local levels promote the art of poetry and the position is an important way to recognize the place and possibilities that poets and poetry have in civic life, including in helping communities address issues of importance. 

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For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922