College professor publishes
novel of Civil War at Petersburg, Va.
By Dawn Zillich
Gwinnett Perimeter College
Special to GwinnettForum.com
AUG. 30, 2002 -- "Swallowed Up In Victory" is the recently
published novel in verse by Georgia Perimeter College English instructor
Dr. Lee Passarella of Lawrenceville. The novel, written in epic-poem
style, tells the story of the siege of Petersburg, Va.
In the novel, Passarella weaves quoted contemporary sources
such as newspaper articles, after action reports, diary entries
and memoirs with fictitious sections of poetry in the form
of diary entries and letters.
Dr. Passarella, a three-year veteran of the college, says the title
is supposed to be ironic.
"In the book one character, the confederate chaplain, is picked
on by another main character --- a soldier--- for being too formal
and overly Calvinistic in his view of God (God is not forgiving,
more punitive, a God of War). When the soldier dies, the chaplain
writes to the family that "Death is swallowed up in victory"
"Central to the siege is the Battle of the Crater, following
the biggest detonation of the war. Eight thousand pounds of gunpowder
were used to blow up the confederate lines while the confederate
soldiers were distracted," Passarella says. "The general
was off drinking when the Union soldiers should have been advancing.
It was a great debacle. So I thought that was an interesting episode
to write about."
The book took five years, off and on, to write and is in blank
verse, unrhymed, iambic pentameter. Other books by Passarella include
self-published chapbooks of lyrical poems. He hopes to publish a
volume of collected poems "mostly lyrical," but has no
One inspiration for Passarella has been his fellow poets, especially
Daniel Skeltema, who introduced him to David Mason's book "The
Country I Remember."
"It's a narrative poem based on the Civil War in Virginia.
The main characters include a soldier and his daughter, who migrate
to California after the war. And I thought that was interesting,
but the battles were mostly small actions, skirmishes. I thought
there should be more, and better, accounts of the battles. That
was my inspiration," says Passarella.
"I've been writing poetry for quite a number of years but I've
been publishing for about 16 years. When I got together with Daniel,
he talked about the rebirth of narrative poetry. Narrative used
to be big, but lyrical poetry took over."
Lyrical poetry generally reflects a poet's personal ideas while
a narrative poem tells a story pure and simple," he
says. "There havent been that many narrative treatments
lately of the Civil War and I thought I would give it a shot. If
narrative poetry is coming back, then I thought the Civil War is
our great American Epic. If Homer were writing today, the Civil
War would be his Iliad."
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