Texas State poet shares love for Gullah culture
Oct. 15, 2015 at 10:30 p.m.
Updated Oct. 16, 2015 at 6 a.m.
Cassie Cameron listened as Cyrus Cassells read a poem inspired by one of the first black students to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School, as a result of integration in 1957.
"It was an excellent reading," Cameron, 24, said. "I haven't read his work, but I really enjoy his piece about the Civil Rights Movement and Elizabeth Eckford."
Cameron, a freshman at the University of Houston-Victoria and English major, was at the campus' American Book Review reading series to hear Cassells, a poet and English professor at Texas State University, share his work Thursday.
Renu Khator, University of Houston System chancellor and University of Houston president, was present. This was Khator's first time to visit the reading series.
Cassells shared his love for the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was executed soon after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Now, there is an airport named after Lorca, Cassells said.
The poet also read from his collection, "The Gospel According to Wild Indigo," which features aspects of the Gullah culture of enslaved Africans, who lived in the low country region of South Carolina and Georgia.
"A dialect of Gullah has no future tense," said Cassells, who also studies languages. "There are so many beautiful, compound words."
Cassells wrote, "The Crossed-Out Swastika," after living in the Jewish quarter in France, visiting Auschwitz and the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam.
"I was passing through Amsterdam and around the corner was Anne Frank's house, so I went and what surprised me was that I felt very angry about being in the secret annex," Cassells said. "I felt like it was easy to contemplate that stage of her life and not think about where she ended up and how she died."
Cameron, who said she either wants to become a high school English teacher or work in publishing, said she was captivated by the reason Cassells said he felt compelled to write about the plight of the youth during World War II.
"He said that those poems just had to come out," Cameron said. "That's the epitome of being a writer."