On the Mezzanine | Gold Line Press, 2019 | NONFICTION
The Year of the Femme | University of Iowa Press, 2019 | POETRY
Beautyberry | Slope Editions, 2018 | POETRY
On the Mezzanine
Praise from Maggie Nelson:
On the Mezzanine is a dizzying read of obsession, exploration, pain, and expansion. To its great credit, it charts the feeling of being "inside our sex" without tethering that feeling to any easily-discernible map of sexuality or gender; instead it offers a shifting kaleidoscope of touch, feeling, pleasure, longing, and loss. Profoundly romantic even as it edges into estrangement and derangement, it makes space for "dark gems of shame" amidst its dreamy depiction of erotic enchantment and its fallout. It’s a smart, probing, gorgeous, and wholehearted endeavor.
The Year of the Femme
Praise from Brenda Shaughnessy:
Cassie Donish’s poems do several kinds of work—at first they ask the big questions, like whether the Gordian Knot or Mobius Strip of gender can ever be set free from its binds of paradox, or where precisely does the crux of the sex/gender question live in us? The answers haven’t landed, and the poet allows the unknown to take up space. The big questions, languid, in no hurry, spread out like unwieldy bodies on the sofas and beaches of identity. But when the poet asks new questions (for instance, when family fails), what comes to the rescue, not unbidden, is love and a self-made sense of body-mind truth to live in. When love enters the poems, the poet becomes a clear inheritor of the work of Kim Vaeth, Marilyn Hacker, Adrienne Rich, and Elizabeth Bishop. Donish sends their heartbroken and passionate voice into the world and the world catches it. Soon that voice is wreathed, garlanded, full of pollen and rain and clover and indigo—everything further broken, messy, lovely, loving, wild, and utterly itself, and it’s in that state that this voice, lush yet precise, is then thrown to us, the reader sighing with pleasure and pathos. A bold and redemptive truth is found here, not reliant on answers for its power and meaning.
Praise from Dan Beachy-Quick:
Reading Cassie Donish’s ravishing debut, I can imagine that the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge wasn’t an apple or pomegranate, but the beautyberry itself, and to eat of it, as all must, is to awaken the mind to its erotic epistemology. Then a word becomes a world of worry; but it becomes a world of wonder, too. Desire does such work on us, turning thought intimate, turning intimacy into thoughts, revealing all we most dearly want and don’t want to know. “I opened my mouth to taste the world,” Donish writes, fusing appetite to knowledge. So they learn that “desire’s // a manner / of speaking,” and both words and brain pulse with the heart’s labyrinthine desires. In such condition, it’s good we have a poet such as Cassie Donish for guide—not to guide us out the maze, but to show us the entrance, and utter us in.
Praise from Mary Jo Bang:
This is a book of boundaries, objects, intersections. A book of multiple selves caught in the midst of self-definition. A book of conflagrations (“my hair / yesterday’s / fire caught / in a disaster”). A book inhabited by all the poets who came right up to the edge over which this book falls (“I consider any verge / a haunting”). A book by a daughter of Dickinson but of this moment. This book is not afraid to address abstractions: What is the beloved? What is a body? What is knowledge? This book barrels toward showing us what can’t be told. If I could, I would quote every word of this book. Instead, you should read it. “The words fall out, click against the table.”
Praise from Zach Savich:
Maybe even our seemingly private desires are social, communicative and communicable, like another's hands in your lungs or a “swaggery morning” you continually wake into. Maybe poems can “bring those you love back / to the places you've been loved” and serve as “objects... that despite their mass / make walking lighter.” Cassie Donish's wondrous poems do that, offering a tapestretic symposium in which every part of speech is physical and an ethics of fierce perception prefers “hunger” and “almost intimacy” and “life's calamity” to any dodge or exemption. “Society is being used to tell itself a story,” Donish writes. “Know what it doesn't say?” The poems in Beautyberry whip and whittle and hope hard to let us know. This is a brilliant debut, and I want to keep living in its language.