A Note on Vietnam War Poetry

Edwin Thumboo


 From the response to Vietnam War (1955-75), especially its atrocities including the long-term effects of chemical weapons, it is clear that the total experience, immediate and long-term, was most unusual. Moreover, for the Vietnamese, it was national survival and identity. For the Americans, an attempt to stem the spread of Communism. A third factor was the different reaction in part religious/spiritual/cultural in the attitudes to death and destruction in which duty and doing the right thing mattered. This is reflected in the poetry written by both sides in the works of Vietnamese poets, Pham Tien Duat, Nguyen Duy, Huu Thinh and Van Le, and Americans, John Balaban for example. With the final piece, it emerges that all cultures, whatever their form, ultimately share the same substance consisting of universal values that transcend war, geography, culture and politics.

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