The World That the Shooter Left Us

This week’s other featured books, “Girl as Birch,” by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson and “The Velvet Badge,” by Bob Mantel, can be seen by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE TITLE: The World That the Shooter Left Us


THE AUTHOR: Cyrus Cassells

THE PUBLISHER: Four Way Books, Tribeca, New York.

“Four Way Books is dedicated to producing and promoting excellent literary publications and to creating opportunities for writers of merit. We believe that the work of writers brings good to the world—understanding, empathy, curiosity, wisdom—and we strive to connect writers and readers, to make each writer’s life more meaningful by bringing validation to the artist and important, pioneering, virtuosic work to wide public attention, as well as to the communities each book most seeks and serves.”

SUMMARY: In the aftermath of the Stand Your Ground killing of his close friend’s father, poet Cassells explores, in his most fearless book to date, the brutality, bigotry, and betrayal at the heart of current America. Taking his cue from the Civil Rights and Vietnam War era poets and songwriters who inspired him in his youth, Cassells presents The World That the Shooter Left Us, a frank, bulletin-fierce indictment of unraveling democracy in an embattled America, in a world still haunted by slavery, by climate catastrophe, by countless battles, borders, and broken promises—adding new grit, fire, and luster to his forty-year career as a dedicated and vital American poet.

THE BACK STORY: The World That the Shooter Left Us took me only eight weeks to write in the summer of 2019. It poured out of me in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, and Rome, without any intended plan or agenda, believe or not, at the same time I finished two other poetry books, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak (Nine Mile Books, 2020) and Is There Room for Another Horse on Your Horse Ranch (Four Way, 2024), a finalist for the National Poetry Series.  All my roiling feelings about volatile Trump era America came to the fore. As Adrienne Rich once said in her poem, “And Now”: I tried to listen to / the public voice of our time, / tried to survey our public space / as best I could…”

WHY THIS TITLE?: I meant the title and cover art to dramatically signify how proximity to lethal gun violence alters your life and sense of the world forever. Readers interested in the following topics will find the poems in my eighth book gripping and pertinent: African American history; antisemitism; Black Lives Matter; the border crisis; Mexican cartels; child detention; child prostitution; COVID pandemic; death squads in El Salvador; the Dirty War in Argentina; gun violence;  LGBTQIA issues; pedophilia in the Catholic church and entertainment industry; police brutality; slave history in the South; social justice; and Trump era politics.

Readers have described The World That the Shooter Left Us as a “ferocious,” polyphonic, and distinctive blend of lyrical language and compassionate documentary poetics chronicling NorthAmerican history the shadow side of the U.S. during the Trump era.


*“Decorum won’t do the trick,” the speaker says in “Senator, Where Is Your Voodoo Doll, Your Snare?” and indeed Cassells’ tone is often outraged, clotted with elaborate adjectives (“our bigotry-is-commonplace republic’s / Chaos,” “Eternally embracing & risk-taking father”) that seek to do justice to what the title poem calls “the brute, churning // Surfaces of the world.” Such outrage serves the civic aim of ameliorating public wrongs through witness and exposure, even when Cassells inhabits the rebarbative personas of corrupt politicians, of a high-school jock who sexually abused another boy, and of blithe people who defend themselves against racism by referring to their “Black friend.”

The best poems here express their civic impulse through the intimacy of personal relationships. “Tango with a Ghost” remembers the speaker’s first “novio” or boyfriend, an Argentine who disappeared during the Dirty War: “Fleet as Hermes, a lord-like shadow.” And the lovely “Clarinet” speaks in the voice of a Chilean mother who is creating an arpillera or patchwork quilt for her son disappeared by Pinochet’s forces:

Purgatory where I bend 
Over the burlap, 
Again & again,
To show the blunt, 
Disillusioning world

The smashed black bell 
Of your clarinet. 

–David Woo, Poetry Foundation


 “Backed into corners by their oppressors, the victimized have few options. Weakened, wounded, stricken with fear, many lack the strength or will to resist. Others, however, bare their teeth and fight despite the odds against them. Cyrus Cassells’ newest collection of poems, The World That the Shooter Left Us, brings to mind just such ferocity and courage.

These are poems that rage against injustice with both sustained fury and consummate craft. An agile imagination and sharpness of diction are propelled by a deft control of sound. The heightened pitch of his assertions is sustained by words that snarl, hiss, and spit...The World That the Shooter Left Us is a book of extraordinary intensity. The cumulative effect of these poems — with all their shocking insights, horrific betrayals, and devastating anguish — is invigorating rather than crushing. The power inherent in the syntax, sound composition, and imagery wrought by Cassells inspires resistance and reform.” — Linda Scheller, On the Seawall (April 12, 2022)


Channeling the chaos: Cyrus Cassells’ ‘The World That the Shooter Left Us’


AUTHOR PROFILE: Cyrus Cassells was the 2021-2022 Poet Laureate of Texas. A military brat, he grew up primarily in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, familiar from the films The Right Stuff and Top Gun: Maverick. He has traveled and lived throughout the U. S. and abroad in Florence, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. A graduate of Stanford University’s film and drama programs, he has been an award-winning actor as well as a dedicated writer since he was 13.

Among his key roles: Beowulf, Othello, Poseidon, mentally challenged Lucien in The Boys Next Door, and in a one-man show, Frederick Douglass.

His honors include: a 2022 Academy of American Poets Laureate fellowship to administer his statewide Juneteenth poetry project; a 2019 Guggenheim fellowship; the National Poetry Series; a Lambda Literary Award; two NEA grants; a Pushcart Prize; and the William Carlos Williams Award. His 2018 volume, The Gospel according to Wild Indigo, was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award, the Helen C. Smith Memorial Award, and the Balcones Poetry Prize. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas, translated from the Catalan, was awarded the Texas Institute of Letters’ Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translated Book of 2018 and 2019. To The Cypress Again and Again: Tribute to Salvador Espriu, combining translations, poetry, and memoir in homage to Catalan Spain’s most revered writer, will be published in 2023. Cassells was nominated for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for his film and television reviews in The Washington Spectator. He teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University, where he received a 2021 Presidential Award for Scholarly/Creative Activities.


My new book is a wide-ranging historical document-in-verse of the Trump years 2016-2020 in America.

SAMPLE: The World That the Shooter Left Us: 9781954245099: Cassells, Cyrus: Books“Wrestling in the clutches of fury and mourning, Cassells—long a master purveyor of both the splendor and contradictions of the natural world, as well as the voluptuary elements of the self—turns his consummate clear-eyed gaze to a bleak and burgeoning brutality that threatens our days, siphons the spirit, and challenges the realm of the

LOCAL OUTLETS: Black Pearl Books and Bookwoman in Austin

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Four Way Books site:

Four Way BooksIndividual donors continue to be our most important supporters. I hope that you will consider making a donation to Four Way Books today as we move into our 3rd decade of serving the literary

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. 

PRICE: $16.95


cebook page:

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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