Cyrus Cassells’s fifth book, The Crossed-Out Swastika, tells the electrifying stories of young people caught in the vise of World War II. In its journey through the “anti-miracle” of Europe’s embattled past, this book follows the lives of historical characters confronted by human violence. Cassells’s poems unflaggingly unearth and amplify moments of almost impossible bravery, music, beauty, and redemption, carefully illuminating the human spirit against unspeakable tyranny.
Elegy With an Owl In It
The young, the war-buffeted, the banished—
they were blossom-and-fruit-seeking
and their time under watchtowers,
brief as relinquished myrrh,
brisk as an owlet fluttering against
a soldier’s insignia.
“Cyrus Cassells here, as in all his work, attempts to penetrate the barriers of our limited sense experience, limited intelligence, limited capacity for feeling and empathy with others, through the arrow of language…The reader who enters Cassells’s ‘unstoppable human dawn’ will be lacerated and comforted at once.” —Alicia Ostriker
“In The Crossed-Out Swastika, Cyrus Cassells sets out to accomplish a genuine synthesis, to know the nature of the powers which thwart our human evolution, and to create a voice which can account for them and comprehend them. Perhaps this has been his mission from the beginning. In this volume his efforts achieve greater numinosity and deeper feeling than ever before.” —Li-Young Lee
“Exquisitely plaited, the poems in The Crossed-Out Swastika journey through the tenuous nature of history and memory to bring us ‘a book / of live-to-tell truth.’ Cassells manages this difficult terrain with the sure, deft touch of a master’s pen—fully aware of what Wilfred Owen terms the pity. The Crossed-Out Swastika inhabits the past, not only as an act of witness but as a foil, helping us to better examine our own present day struggles and humanity.” —Brian Turner
“Ever since being completely stunned by Soul Make a Path Through Shouting, I have fervently followed the work of Cyrus Cassells. It is not that he writes books, but that he achieves books—each in growing magnitude. Now, with The Crossed-Out Swastika, Cassells again achieves a pinnacle. He gives voice to the disappeared, gives complete authenticity (where others merely sensationalize), and makes timeless what is lost to time. He gives us the soul of history and the genuine voices of the resurrected. As he writes, these are truly “resurrected pages.” I can’t recommend this book more vigorously or highly enough. Cassells will enrich and deepen your life, which is what we pray poetry may do for us and is rarely found.” —Nicholas Samaras