Crosslight for Youngbird by Asiya Wadud
Crosslight for Youngbird
Poetry | $15.95
paperback, 96 pages, 5 1/2 x 8
Publication Date: 2018
ISBN: 978-1-937658-87-8

An urgent and vital debut collection of poems that mixes ekphrasis with reportage to draw a new narrative of our present-day migration crises

Crosslight for Youngbird explores the slipperiness of borders, as well as borders’ tentacles: mother tongue, language and mastery, citizenship and nationality, migration and flight. These poems are concerned with the demands we make on our body, the limits of those demands, and ultimately, how everyone inhabits space.

“According to the principles of the distribution of light, or, God’s will, a person interested in the future must account for each flicker or movement of the enclosures that engage and separate us from and with one another. Asiya’s work takes, indeed, a bird’s eye view. I think it is possible to believe in the invocation of the wide view.” —SIMONE WHITE

"The aching beauty of Crosslight for Youngbird by Asiya Wadud will slay you ten times over. Her sentences fill up the mouth like water. The water is an invasive storm that refuses to relent, overwhelming our whole senses of self--these (mostly) prose poems, looping and voluminous and necessarily incantatory like a prayer. To hold a whole world of loss is as impossible as the realities behind the poems themselves. Yet, impossibly, Wadud, like Laszlo Krasznahorkai, makes a demanding syntax that strokes those loss-wounds, inflames them, and becomes soft balm. Crosslight for Youngbird is phenomenal. It is like no other book I’ve ever read. It will leave you breathless.—DAWN LUNDY MARTIN

"This strong and sensitive book, Crosslight for Youngbird, by Asiya Wadud is crafted, timely, caring. Now, when we may feel overwhelmed with the litany of painful stories about our most vulnerable in the world everyday, Asiya’s poems offer us a way in. This heartfelt work presents a more profound understanding of the harmed, resilient, resigned. Wadud’s sparse, immersive language puts questions into high relief:  “What would we do if we found ourselves lost?”, “What would we do if we found ourselves?”—TRACIE MORRIS 


"Born of a colonial legacy—“lineage of slave marooned”—this wildly associative debut from Wadud works as a lyrical introduction to the phenomenology of border-crossing. By truck and boat, on foot and in the mind, beyond “the long arm of empire,” the journeys recorded here are harrowing, even lethal. A poem of witness may begin as a prayer for safe journey, and turn to elegy as “doom and resolve each keep their own metronome.” A lifeboat capsizes in the Mediterranean; families of refugees asphyxiate in a sealed truck en route to Austria. What keep the book from becoming a catalog of unremitting horror are Wadud’s capacious heart, inventive mind, and diasporic imagination: “when a country doesn’t claim you, just gather your own.” Her versatile forms convey “the exhilaration of life/ out of place.” Optimistically reversing Stevie Smith’s famous line, “Not waving but drowning,” Wadud writes, “I’m not sinking, I’m floating.” In its drawing together of disparate postcolonial experiences, the book conveys an ominous subtext: “don’t be so sure the river flows downstream. Truth be we maybe all long for the same long.” Even as Wadud marks the realities of inequality within empire, she delivers a universal message: “We’re all bobbing creatures amniotic salted on this island of deserted windmills.” —Publishers Weekly

"A baby be damned without a mother. A mother be damned without her child. A man be damned without a country. A country be damned without a people." That's Omar speaking, ready to risk a Mediterranean crossing, for "the salted seas preserve a dream." Martin responds by warning him with a story about liberated Buchenwald inmates whose starved bodies sometimes couldn't withstand K-Rations: "So close to liberation and some empire licks back." A third-grade teacher in Brooklyn who also instructs new immigrants and refugees in English, Wadud readily references language mashups and lost lives (71 people asphyxiated in a truck, 3,771 drowned), all forming a veritable "palimpsest marking some memory." Yet she speaks not just of hard crossings and hard adaptation but the longing for community, recalling Omar's salt-preserved dream. "We three are a small nation," she cries as her sister teaches her to float, even if the water recalls darker murmurings. And the title's Youngbird says, "So pass through a ready sieve some what you need to make a little country by the supple, giving sea." VERDICT An -affecting debut collection."—Library Journal

"Asiya Wadud’s debut collection, Crosslight for Youngbird, is searching, extroverted, and humane, yet concerns itself with the misery, doubt, and confusion of forced exodus and unwelcome borders, returning again and again to the current migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East. Wilfred Owen, the British WWI poet, once wrote, “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” Wadud’s poetry, too, is in the pity, but not the pity of the journalist reporting from the scene nor of the ethicist arguing her way towards greater justice: her pity is the poet’s pity — trying to cup in her hands (to make cohere) the splintered pieces of an actual, human soul."—Austin Adams, LA Review of Books