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Posted August 28, 2009
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Dien Cai Dau - Awesome and Vivid Vietnam Poems
Professor Yusef Komunyakaa is just an awesome poet and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is a recipient of the 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and the Pulitzer Prize Award for his book, Neon Vernacular. During the spring of 2009 I read four of his books for a class assignment and was just amazed by the brilliance I came across in his poems. He served as a military correspondence during the Vietnam conflict and was right in the thicket of the firefights where he wrote his stories.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Reading Dien Cai Dau brings the battlefields of the jungle right before the eyes. It's realistic, dynamic and vivid. Having served in the army with the Airborne Infantry, I am able to identify with the principles, concepts, and thoughts in this amazing and realistic book.
The first poem Camouflaging the Chimera is chilling. For example read these lines: "The river ran through our bones. Small animals took refuge against our bodies, we held our breath, ready to spring the L-shaped ambush." Such an ambush is one of the deadliest for any enemy force to find itself trapped into and cannot escape.
Moving on to another striking poem entitled, Tunnels, this one is more breath-taking. These are his words, "Crawling down head first into the hole, he kicked the air and disappeared." This is the tunnel rat who finds the enemy underground in swamp, musk, filth and grime.
"Fragging" is a situation in which a soldier should never find his or herself. This means death to the person being "fragged," and comes about when a senior ranking person is being mean-spirited to others in his own unit on the battlefield, thus creating hatred and conflict. Listen to these chilling words: "Slipping a finger into the metal ring, he's married to the devil-the spoon-shaped handle flies off. Everything breaks for green cover, like a hundred red birds released from a wooden box."
Watching a person burn is really a gruesome sight, especially when one is unable to do anything to save the person. These words bring to the forefront such a reality in the poem You and I Are Disappearing: "We stood there with our hands hanging at our sides while she burns like a sack of dry ice, she burns like oil on water, she burns like a shot glass of vodka, she burns like a burning bush driven by a godawful wind."
These fellows in the next poem are very deadly. They will creep out of anywhere in the middle of the night and launch an attack. Listen to these words from the poem Sappers: "They fall & rise again like torchbearers, with their naked bodies greased so moonlight dances off their skins." The imagery in this piece is vivid and poignant. One is able to see them clearly.
It's needless for me to write anymore about these poems. The picture is quite obvious that the poems in this book are just breath-taking and dramatic. One has to read this book to appreciate the drama.
More information on Professor Yusef Komunyakaa, 1994 Pulitzer Prize Winner, may be obtained at the following site:
Joseph S. Spence, Sr., is the author of "The Awakened One Poetics" published in seven languages. He also co-author two poetry books, A Trilogy of Poetry, Prose and Thoughts for the Mind, Body and Soul, and Trilogy Moments for the Mind, Body and Soul. He invented the Epulaeryu poetry form, which focuses on succulent cuisines and drinks. He is published in various forums, including the World Haiku.
Posted April 29, 2004
Dien Cai Dau is an excellent group of poems by Yusef Komunyakaa. The imagery that is used in order to explain the life experiences from the Vietnam war is very intriguing. If you are a Vietnam Veteran than you will feel like you could be after reading this book. I wasn¿t an avid reader of poetry before I put my hands on this book but after I have read this I keep finding more poets that I love to read. If you are new to reading poetry this book is for you, although, if you have a light stomach you maybe should find a new introductory poet to wet your poetic feet with. The imagery that he uses to explain things at some points can be graphic. However I think that in most of the situations that graphic imagery is used to explain his point of view in the war is necessary. The imagery used puts the reader in the shoes of the soldier as he has to witness the atrocities that are committed before his eyes. The book is summed in the end by a poem that describes a visit to the Vietnam Veteran¿s memorial in Washington D.C. It places a capstone on the end of the book and makes every non-veteran reader who has seen the memorial in Washington have a completely different feeling than the first time he or she might have been to see it. He says, ¿My black face fades,/hiding inside the black granite./I said I wouldn't,/dammit: No tears./I'm stone. I'm flesh. (ll 1-5). you can see him physically standing there at the black wall seeing himself and the names of his fallen comrades on the wall. you can feel the pain as he stands there and weeps for a section of his life that in comparison seems so small but in his heart the void that it has left is bigger than he ever knew. You can feel him face the hurt that he must have endured and everything that he must have been through in the war. All of the previous poems in the book seem to come alive with this last look back. You can feel the Children that he saw die and the buddies of his that he saw mutilated and then eventually killed. This last poem in the album of Dien Cai Dau makes you feel again the hurt that war can leave on the heart. This book makes me feel as though I was alive and fighting in a war that I was never even born to witness news reels of. It should be recommended reading for all college students. If it were we would know what a generation went through and how the pains the heart to even look back on what it must have been like. Never again will I look at the Vietnam war the same way after reading Yusef Komunyakaa¿s Dien Cai Dau.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2004
Review for DIen Cai Dau
Dien Cai Dau is a colorful and imaginative book of poetry on the experience of the Vietnam War. In this book, Yesef Komunyakaa sadly yet beautifully depicts the trials of war, both locally and foreign, and integrates his touch of creative observation in constructing his poetry. Published in 1988, this collection of about 44 poems moves the reader through an unsequenced procession of descriptive stories putting the reader in the author¿s, and at most times a soldiers¿, shoes. At many different times throughout the book, Komunyakaa uses the term ¿we¿ in the poems to put the focus on a squad or platoons¿ attitude towards the war instead of a single individual. At other times, the poems don¿t represent the American soldier¿s point of view, but maybe a civilian or a prisoner¿s. The poems undoubtedly portrays the hardships and horrors that accompany war but do so with a language that appeals to the senses and create in the reader a feeling of the spiritual. Some of his poetry produces feelings of the romantic as in his poem, ¿We Never Know¿ while others produce feelings of mortal loss and regret as in the poem, ¿One More Loss to Count.¿ The poetry ranges from the graphic to the surreal and is on the average quite strong in imagery and may be better suited to those with strong stomachs. While this book is not a collection of gore and terror, it does put the reader in the bush with the stark, grim tone that is war. Most any audience can read and understand the word choice, but there is evidence that those familiar with the war, events of those days and military knowledge will better understand the contents. This is not to say, however, that anyone can¿t merely pick up the book and enjoy it freely without prior knowledge. Each poem is different from the others and some don¿t speak of war directly but mention events that happened during the time such as the protests by monks and the burning of themselves in public as in the poem, ¿2527th Birthday of the Buddha.¿ Komunyakaa¿s poetry touches topics that go on to describe the jungle in vivid color and detail, retell the raping of a local woman with much graphic expression, and even one piece not in poetic form that tells of an American POW in a Vietnam prison. Many topics are covered and points of view given, all which posses a very touching and insightful glance into a war that is everything but glorified in the American eye. In writing this book of war poetry, Komunyakaa brings to the world of American literature a voice that very adequately provides a different spin on a piece of world history that seems to flow against the literature at the time. If anyone wanting to find a varied collection of beautifully written pieces of work on Vietnam poetry or literature at it¿s finest, then look no further than this collection by Yusef Komunyakaa.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 7, 2004
War Poetry Done Perfectly
Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa is a great collection of poems dealing with the Vietnam War. Komunyakaa gives the readers an unbiased look into and at the controversial war. The poems are not for or against the war but simply about the war. Komunyakaa takes the readers on a first person journey from the front lines, to battle, to the personal time the soldiers have when they are not fighting, and ends the collection fittingly with a poem about the Vietnam War Memorial after the war. Dien Cai Dau begins by taking the readers through the trenches and into battle with poems like ¿Camouflaging the Chimera¿ and ¿Tunnels¿ which offer great imagery. Lines 2-3 in ¿Camouflaging the Chimera¿ read, ¿We painted our faces & rifles/ with mud from a river bank¿. Other poems show the reader a more hidden, personal, and relatively unknown perspective of what goes on with the soldiers when there is no fighting like in the poems of ¿Toys in a Field¿, ¿Tu Do Street¿, ¿Re-creating the Scene¿, and ¿Dui Boi, Dust of Life¿. For instance, ¿Toys in a Field is about how the Vietnamese children use the parts of guns to play. ¿Dui Boi, Dust of Life¿ is about a son born in Vietnam to an American solider finding his father here in the states. The very last poem entitled ¿Facing It¿ is about the aftermath of the war and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. ¿I go down the 58,022 names,/ half-expecting to find/ my own in letter like smoke,¿ read lines 14-16 of the poem. I particularly enjoyed this book because it opens your eyes to war and what goes one ¿behind the scenes¿, so to speak, in the lives of the soldiers. This book really helps you to understand what those soldiers go through during battle and off it. Komunyakaa does use military terminology, as you might expect given the subject matter he is writing about, but that does not affect the poems to the extent that the reader might miss the idea or ideas of the poem. Some readers, like myself, might have to go back and re-read some of the poems to fully understand the context of the poem, but Komunyakaa uses simple everyday diction. Some of the imagery and themes of the poems are strong so this book might not be suitable for younger audiences. I recommend this book for older teenagers (15+) to adults of all ages. I believe that people with a military background or those interested and/or familiar with the military should definitely read this book. This book is an overall great read, and really opens ones eyes to what goes on during a war. People of all backgrounds will enjoy it. Komunyakaa is a very talented writer, and this book really shows why.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2013
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