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. He obviously has a soft spot for Pop Culture, although he cannot avoid seeingit de haut en bas.
As usual, he is all over the place geographically. One feels he would slash his wrists before he would write a poem about any city on the traditional Grand Tour. Manaus, Campeche, Trieste, Budapest (as destroyed by Godzilla)—these are his places. He has a disturbing willingness to write on both sides of an issue, resembling in this Bernard Shaw. You have to read very carefully to see whether he tips his hand.
One looks forward to Mr. Cassity’s posthumous poems, when he is beyond the reach of libel. For now, at least, we have Devils & Islands.