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Dien Cai Dau

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  • Posted August 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    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.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2004

    excellent poetry!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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