Poetry and Vietnam

“Poetry that documents the attitudes toward the Vietnam War–as well as the origins, development, and conduct of the war–is both pervasive and significant. Although only a few poems by French writers reflect that country’s involvement, the Vietnamese tradition of poetic expression produced a large body of work, both personal and political, written by soldiers and civilians of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). Unfortunately, except for the efforts of American poets John Balaban, Yusef Komunyakka, Kevin Bowen, and Bruce Weigl, most of these poems are not available in translation. Only the Vietnamese expatriate Thích Nhât Hanh published a significant collection in English. His The Cry of Vietnam (1968) contains 15 poems about the devastation of war and the horrors inflicted by all sides. Also a number of poems by Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Lao refugee poets appeared in the numerous volumes of the Viêt Nam Forum Series and the Lac-Viêt Series published after 1983 by the Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University. In Viêt Nam Forum 14 (1994), for instance, Viêt Thanh Nguyên, then a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in a moving poem about a burning ash heap that he was ‘yearning to find a clue/ in the ash to my people,/ severed from me with the finality of a butcher’s cleaver.’ More than any other group, however, American poets, both veterans and nonveterans, in thousands of poems written during and after the war best chronicled the changing, often conflicting attitudes and experiences of men and women fighting in Southeast Asia. … Poetry about Vietnam falls into three general categories: political protest poems, usually written by established poets who had not been to Vietnam; verse novels, in which chronologically linked poems depict one person’s experiences at war; and the hundreds of usually short, personal lyrics that present individual scenes, character sketches, or events. The first significant protest volume was A Poetry Reading against the Vietnam War (1966), edited by Robert Bly and David Ray. The next year, Walter Lowenfels edited the anthology Where Is Vietnam?, in which the 87 contributing poets include James Dickey, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Denise Levertov. Two more collections followed: Out of the Shadow of War (1968) and Poetry against the War (1972).  …”
Modern American Poetry – John Clark Pratt
Modern American Poetry: About the Vietnam War (1960-1975)
The Poetry of the Vietnam War (Video)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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