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Cassandra Troyan

Born in the USSA (1986): Columbus, OH; lives and works in Chicago, IL.


"Writing that is so hot it turns to lava in your mind!"

– Stewart Home

"Cassandra Troyan’s writing, here in these non-stop great, coruscating poems and everywhere else, is one of the total wonders of contemporary lit. It can make every form it wears seem at once perfected and helplessly corrupted. So, it’s like an ongoing R.I.P. to the historical models. But she’s not just a writers’ writer. She seems to know so much so unusually and feel everything so complicatedly and yet concisely that reading her is something new and gigantic."

– Dennis Cooper

"Cassandra Troyan’s Blacken Me Blacken Me, Growled begins by thinking at the very edge of what we call language, listening intently to what desire and disgust sound like there. In this remarkable book, the inchoate flails and wails of pleasure and spectacular pain finally do focus—we aren’t alone even when we beg or squeal. Our lovers are there, our family is there, our community is there, lack and excess, hot filth, cum and treasure. When so much writing conforms to capital’s imperative that we enervate ourselves in our art works, our communities, our sex lives, our sense of what is possible, Blacken Me is a wise reminder that we are not alone, that “we need the shit,” that “we are the shit that motivates our bones."

– Brandon Brown

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Blacken Me Blacken Me Growled

We Are Conditioned, We Are Conditional


‘If we’d only stop flailing
we’d realize we float.’

I first read Blacken Me Blacken Me Growled in pdf form while at my desk at work under the glare of one thousand fluorescent lights, Cassandra’s words fantastically magnified on the computer monitor. I felt odd and more than a little disoriented. Where did the poems start? Where did they end? And were the black pages poems too, or titles, or something else, some other, unnameable art form altogether? I scrolled and read, the poems blurring together into an kind of melancholic state. After "Shells," part three of four (following "Carriages" and "Chambers," and preceding "Hides"), I needed a break. Plus, my shift had ended at 11 pm and I was the only living person still sitting in the office.

My fiancé had been writing in a Burger King down the street, and on our way home he asked me about Cassandra’s book. Was I enjoying it? How did the poems compare to Cassandra’s poetry circa 2011 (an energetic and exciting time for me in the internet writing scene, during which I devoured anything and everything Cassandra Troyan had published online and wildly and more often than not drunkenly asserted to anyone who would listen that she was one of THE BEST poets I knew)? Responding to these questions was difficult. They were different, I said. I didn’t know, I said. What did these poems make me feel? I couldn’t say. Was I different now? Was Cassandra? Maybe we had both changed in ways that disconnected us as ideal writer / reader. I felt sad.

First thing the next morning, I sat in bed and read "Hides" on my laptop, and everything changed. Here it was, for me. I found purchase in these poems, was immediately drawn to the space they took up on the page, their breadth and their intensity. Cassandra begins:

Now I would like to play the role of provider / inviter
of supreme romance supreme terror

Yes, I thought. Yes, yes, yes, I continued to think as I binge-read the last 50 pages of Blacken Me Blacken Me Growled. What was so different about "Hides"? Or, what was so different about my reading of "Hides"?

1. I felt more comfortable while reading "Hides." Sitting in my bed, my house enveloped by rain clouds (I live at the top of a hill overlooking the city), reading off my laptop in natural lighting gave me sense of control over my environment I hadn’t had in my office.

2. "Hides" begins with an epigraph from Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs that made me feel ‘same’:

The juddering of climax, as involuntary as a death rattle, I took to be a statement of hopeless attachment. Why, I don’t know. I didn’t think of myself as sentimental, I thought of myself as spiritually alert.

3. The sexuality and brutality in this section felt like a huge throwback to Cassandra’s poetry circa 2011, which I had felt connected to then in a very intense way (I had ‘taken a lover’ who was mentally and physically exhausting me, in unequal parts dangerous and wonderful. Cassandra’s writing made me feel like I was part of some kind of club of poets writing about sex and sexuality in an empowering way.)

4. Everything fell into place, aesthetically. The black pages felt less like title cards here and more like poster poems, like,


stands alone, I think, but also acts as a kind of conversation starter for the poem that follows, which begins:

“What does that mean in terms of / sexual gratification / exchanges of diversions / distracted tongue”

5. There is so much scary beauty here.

Hides made me feel nostalgic and excited. It also made me want to immediately reread Blacken Me Blacken Me Growled, which I did, which felt like an entirely different experience than it had when I read the first three sections.

People change. But the thing is, we don’t just change over long swaths of time (which is what three years can feel like to a 26-year-old human with a heightened sense of her own impermanence), we change from setting to setting, from day to day, from condition to condition, and these conditions can drastically change something as simple or as difficult as reading a pdf of an old friend’s new book. These conditions can change our connections to the world and our home and ourselves. Find your right conditions and Blacken Me Blacken Me Growled will meet you there.

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