2. From Both Sides Now: The poetry of the Vietnam war and its aftermath

edited by Phillip Mahony

The is a very moving collection of poetry from a troubling war. Reading the American voices helped me replace many Hollywood images and ideas with ones closer to the event. The kind of truth I seek always seems to lay in the hearts of poets. After filling my head with so much of it, there is a general feeling of pain and hopefulness. What is most moving about the American poetry are the connections made between the soldiers and their enemies. These American soldier/poets try to love their enemy in very real ways. There is an underlying sense that both sides were trying to understand eachother while being compelled to fight.

The very best, most mind-expanding part of this collection was the mountain of poetry from South and North Vietnamese poets. Wow. It is so beautiful, so heartbreaking. And yet so damned hopeful. Like the American poets, the overwhelming majority were preoccupied with knowing the men on the other side. It made for memorable reading.

Finally, I came to further understand that while Americans saw this war at the "Vietnam War," the Vietnamese viewed it as a civil war, one that would lead to the inevitable requirement that they learn to live together in the aftermath. Where the Vietnamese poets concerned themselves with trying not to become hard hearted, finding pathways to peace and reaching reconciliation, the American poets did not have that pressure. Nevertheless, all sides share a sense of tremendous loss and longing to understand that war and its effect on the soul.


Olman Feelyus said...

Very interesting. I'm curious how the editorial direction influenced the choice of poems. Were there any poems that were not so open and understanding? Poems of anger and hatred of the enemy?

Crumbolst said...

Yes, there were plenty of angry, hateful ones. The American ones tended toward at self or our government. Also a great deal of unnavigable confusion. The South and North Vietnamese argy stuff is different. Both sides show plenty of anger toward the US, although the north more so.
These were great poems, too, but I was most stricken by the hopefulness and knowledge-seeking, even in many of pissed off ones.