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From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath

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The Vietnam War, America's longest -- and in some ways most devastating -- conflict, changed the course of a generation and left millions wondering, "Why?" Here, in the first-ever collection of poetry from both sides of the war, Vietnamese and American poets use their art to ponder this haunting question. Chronologically arranged to mirror the progression of the war, From The Vietnam War, America's longest -- and in some ways most devastating -- conflict, changed the course of a generation and left millions wondering, "Why?" Here, in the first-ever collection of poetry from both sides of the war, Vietnamese and American poets use their art to ponder this haunting question. Chronologically arranged to mirror the progression of the war, From Both Sides Now brings together a wide variety of opposing views, with poetry by American and Vietnamese soldiers, orphans, widows, priests, monks, political figures, and antiwar protesters. In addition to including extraordinary works from well-known poets such as Bruce Weigl, Margaret Atwood, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Grace Paley, Philip Levine, and W. S. Merwin, editor Phillip Mahony has scoured the globe to find amazing and, in some cases, never-before-published poetry by North and South Vietnamese soldiers and poets and the first postwar generation of Vietnamese-Americans. Together the words of these poets cohere to a modern, many-voiced epic about the most important event in recent American history. Poignant and accessible, the poems collected here will leave an indelible impact on all readers -- not only poetry lovers but everyone who lived through, and those who want to learn about, the Vietnam War.


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The Vietnam War, America's longest -- and in some ways most devastating -- conflict, changed the course of a generation and left millions wondering, "Why?" Here, in the first-ever collection of poetry from both sides of the war, Vietnamese and American poets use their art to ponder this haunting question. Chronologically arranged to mirror the progression of the war, From The Vietnam War, America's longest -- and in some ways most devastating -- conflict, changed the course of a generation and left millions wondering, "Why?" Here, in the first-ever collection of poetry from both sides of the war, Vietnamese and American poets use their art to ponder this haunting question. Chronologically arranged to mirror the progression of the war, From Both Sides Now brings together a wide variety of opposing views, with poetry by American and Vietnamese soldiers, orphans, widows, priests, monks, political figures, and antiwar protesters. In addition to including extraordinary works from well-known poets such as Bruce Weigl, Margaret Atwood, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Grace Paley, Philip Levine, and W. S. Merwin, editor Phillip Mahony has scoured the globe to find amazing and, in some cases, never-before-published poetry by North and South Vietnamese soldiers and poets and the first postwar generation of Vietnamese-Americans. Together the words of these poets cohere to a modern, many-voiced epic about the most important event in recent American history. Poignant and accessible, the poems collected here will leave an indelible impact on all readers -- not only poetry lovers but everyone who lived through, and those who want to learn about, the Vietnam War.

30 review for From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I have written and deleted more drafts of this review than any other review I’ve written. This anthology is profound in a manner I’m finding difficult to capture. I was in high school and college during Vietnam, so this is very much a part of me, not just who I was then, but who I became, who I am now. Philip Mahony has done an extraordinary job in putting this book together. The ordering loosely follows the timeline, starting with the immolation of Buddhist monks and nuns. There are well-known I have written and deleted more drafts of this review than any other review I’ve written. This anthology is profound in a manner I’m finding difficult to capture. I was in high school and college during Vietnam, so this is very much a part of me, not just who I was then, but who I became, who I am now. Philip Mahony has done an extraordinary job in putting this book together. The ordering loosely follows the timeline, starting with the immolation of Buddhist monks and nuns. There are well-known poets as well as many lesser or unknown poets. Mahony presents poetry by protesters, both American and Vietnamese, veterans, family members of vets, and many selections from North and South Vietnamese soldiers and politicians.There is even a poem by Jeff Miller, ("Where Does It End?"), one of the protestors killed at Kent State. I admit to shutting the book when I came to that poem. There are several poems by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist. I’m finding it impossible to select poems to quote, so instead, I’ll give my impressions and reactions. The so-called opposing viewpoints meld together almost seamlessly. I cried the entire time I read this book, not huge, gulping sobs, but gentle tears, sometimes not even realizing I was crying until a tear traversed my cheek. I could only read a few poems at a time before becoming overwhelmed, yet in many ways, I couldn’t put this book down. I unconsciously created sacred space during my reading; I actually turned my cellphone and laptop off, lit a candle, made tea, and read. And cried. Cried for the devastation of 2 countries, one physically and the other morally, the loss of life, and the indelibly changed lives of survivors. I also cried for the dreams and idealism of my youth; my social justice/activist friends and I truly believed we were creating a better, peaceful, kind future for our children and grandchildren. Isn’t it amazing how poetry can affect us? Teachers, put aside the history books and lesson plans (if any) on Vietnam, and make this book required reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erin Charpentier

    I've been looking for a good book of Vietnam poetry to use to supplement my teaching and this is it. This book is broken into thematic sections and contains poems by soldiers, Americans, Vietnamese, and others involved with the war whether in a primary or tertiary role. Some are short, some are long, most are powerful. I really enjoyed this book and the picture it painted of the war. As the title implies, you get a full perspective not just a one-sided view.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is not just a powerful book. This is an important book. Copies of it should be handed out at The Wall. If you, your parents, your grandparents, or friends ever served in combat in Vietnam, you should read this. If you or they were an activist against the war--any war--you should read this. The poets are numerous and diverse: amateurs and famous, soldiers (from both sides) villagers and protesters, students, clergy, career military, grunts, and the grieving left behind. This is a book of gene This is not just a powerful book. This is an important book. Copies of it should be handed out at The Wall. If you, your parents, your grandparents, or friends ever served in combat in Vietnam, you should read this. If you or they were an activist against the war--any war--you should read this. The poets are numerous and diverse: amateurs and famous, soldiers (from both sides) villagers and protesters, students, clergy, career military, grunts, and the grieving left behind. This is a book of generations. The burning of monks. The buildup. Death. Fighting. Brutality. Hatred. Love. The fall. The Wall. PTSD. Boat people. Healing. Returns. The next generations. Poems by Ho Chi Minh, by Jeff Miller (one of the four killed at Kent State), the well-known and the never-known. This book is from 1998. I wish I had known about it then. The war, my war, was just something in the past. I had never heard of W.D. Ehrhart, Yusuf Komunyakaa, Bruce Weigl, or any other Vietnam war poet. And I should have; I got my Master's degree in poetry in 1986. Buy this book. Give it to someone you know who served or who is serving now. Remember.

  4. 4 out of 5

    My'Kuyah Anteros

    A remarkable collection of poetry from a multitude of voices involved in the Vietnam War. This is a must read for those working at understanding the war and its impact.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan Thombs

    I selected this book to use in my Vietnam unit and students easily found many poems that reflected the themes, tone, characters, and stories we have discussed in class in relation to The Things They Carried. I had hoped the collection would be balanced in terms of Vietnamese/American poets, but I did find most of the poems were written by Americans, so I will need to look elsewhere for the Vietnamese perspective. Interestingly, of the Vietnamese poems included, many were about love of land, whic I selected this book to use in my Vietnam unit and students easily found many poems that reflected the themes, tone, characters, and stories we have discussed in class in relation to The Things They Carried. I had hoped the collection would be balanced in terms of Vietnamese/American poets, but I did find most of the poems were written by Americans, so I will need to look elsewhere for the Vietnamese perspective. Interestingly, of the Vietnamese poems included, many were about love of land, which was a stark contrast to the American poems about the atrocities of war.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    This is a pretty amazing collection of poetry about the Vietnam War--many poems are written by Vietnamese immigrants or citizens, and how they have grappled or are grappling with the war and its aftermath. Many poems are not very artfully written--most of these poets are not poets by trade, but soldiers trying to make sense of their surroundings and war. There are a few poems by well-known writers (Margaret Atwood and Allen Ginsberg, in particular), but all of these poems are heartbreakingly hon This is a pretty amazing collection of poetry about the Vietnam War--many poems are written by Vietnamese immigrants or citizens, and how they have grappled or are grappling with the war and its aftermath. Many poems are not very artfully written--most of these poets are not poets by trade, but soldiers trying to make sense of their surroundings and war. There are a few poems by well-known writers (Margaret Atwood and Allen Ginsberg, in particular), but all of these poems are heartbreakingly honest, raw (even all these decades later), and all seem to be asking, "What was the point?" My favorite poem in this collection is Eugene E. Grollmes' "At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.: Chrissie"--a truly sorrowful poem about a girl visiting the Wall, looking for her father's name--a father she never met. It made me cry reading it, and really reinforced the waste of the war. Many of the Vietnamese poets emphasize the theme of destruction--referencing the fires, the bombings, the war-scarred or war-torn landscape, the destroyed towns and villages, not to mention what the people on both sides suffered emotionally and physically. The collection is divided into 10 sections, dealing with the war during varying points of history, for example: the early 1960s, mid- to late-1960s, protests, coming home, the aftermath, and the Wall. A few poems have specific years added as a footnote or in the title; many deal with the local nature of war, as Le Thi Diem Thuy writes, "we are fragmented shards / blown here by a war no one wants to remember...our survival is dependent upon / never forgetting that vietnam is not / a word...let people know / VIETNAM IS NOT A WAR...but a piece of / us, / sister / and / we are / so much / more The VIETNAM IS NOT A WAR is repeated three times, emphasizing the views of a woman struggling to find her place in a changed land and world. Pretty powerful poems make this a difficult collection to get through, but it's important to have these pieces collected.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Scuderi

    From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and It's Review is a unique collection of poetry that tell the stories that can only be told throughout the perspectives of those who have experienced the war. The order and organization of the poems show relation between both sides of the war, sifting through a myriad number of different perspectives and ideas that people on both sides had during the war. Through the vivid and emotional descriptions and words that the poets choose, one can pla From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and It's Review is a unique collection of poetry that tell the stories that can only be told throughout the perspectives of those who have experienced the war. The order and organization of the poems show relation between both sides of the war, sifting through a myriad number of different perspectives and ideas that people on both sides had during the war. Through the vivid and emotional descriptions and words that the poets choose, one can place themselves in the shoes of the author of the poem. Documentaries, interviews, and audio recordings will open one up to a perspective about the war and provide a more general idea, but through these poems and words that the authors choose for their unique poems, one develops a further understanding of the war and it's physiological effects on those who were effected by the war. Though many poems may seem repetitive, it is how the reader can relate the poems together and notice similarities that both sides experienced. This collection of poems from the Vietnam war tells the story of the war in a unique way. The poems are organized in a somewhat chronological order and are typically grouped in each section or chapter so that the reader can read how one aspect of the war effected people on the one side and then relate how it effected people from the other side.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Collins

    This is one of the more powerful poetry anthologies I've come across. The editor, Phillip Mahony, clearly went out of his way to not only organize the collection in a way that would make sense as a documentarian effort of sorts, but also went out of his way to represent Vietnam and the Vietnam War, as well as its aftermath, from various sides and perspectives. Although I've read a great deal of war-related poetry, and much poetry and literature dealing with the Vietnam War, especially, I've neve This is one of the more powerful poetry anthologies I've come across. The editor, Phillip Mahony, clearly went out of his way to not only organize the collection in a way that would make sense as a documentarian effort of sorts, but also went out of his way to represent Vietnam and the Vietnam War, as well as its aftermath, from various sides and perspectives. Although I've read a great deal of war-related poetry, and much poetry and literature dealing with the Vietnam War, especially, I've never come across a book which so carefully and so thoughtfully explored a piece of history while also including such powerful poems. Because, that's also true--the work here is polished and worth reading as literature, and not only artifact or history. Coming from both established poets and newer voices, the poems are clear and striking, and organized in such a way that the power of each one builds upon others. This truly is a collection to read from cover to cover, and then to revisit in pieces. All told, I'd absolutely recommend this, either to poetry lovers or to readers interested in the Vietnam War, or in the issues and discussions that go hand in hand with any such discussion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I read this book, as I thought poetry might explain the intricacies of the Vietnam War more than dry historical accounts. There are a few poems in here that grabbed me by my throat! I especially liked Corporal Thatch, "no way I'll forget your death until mine", We Never Know, "He danced with tall grass for a moment,like he was swaying with a woman"--very sardonically lovely image, Dead," we had every kind of death in Vietnam, fast dead, near dead...", Soldier's Widow: A Generic Photo, " tonight I read this book, as I thought poetry might explain the intricacies of the Vietnam War more than dry historical accounts. There are a few poems in here that grabbed me by my throat! I especially liked Corporal Thatch, "no way I'll forget your death until mine", We Never Know, "He danced with tall grass for a moment,like he was swaying with a woman"--very sardonically lovely image, Dead," we had every kind of death in Vietnam, fast dead, near dead...", Soldier's Widow: A Generic Photo, " tonight she will sleep with the widow's quilt, the folded flag taken from his coffin." Very good, and telling.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I wouldn't say just any person could pick up this book and read. The poetry can be hit or miss - meaning if you are looking for completely technically sound poetry, you will be frustrated. However, if you are looking for relevant (even today) war poetry, than this is a great choice. Yes, it is poetry concerning Vietnam, but it speaks to a broader universal audience. As I read the poems I tried to picture the person, the boy who just turned 18 and was sent to another world, or the man taken from I wouldn't say just any person could pick up this book and read. The poetry can be hit or miss - meaning if you are looking for completely technically sound poetry, you will be frustrated. However, if you are looking for relevant (even today) war poetry, than this is a great choice. Yes, it is poetry concerning Vietnam, but it speaks to a broader universal audience. As I read the poems I tried to picture the person, the boy who just turned 18 and was sent to another world, or the man taken from his family to fight for his homeland. Extremely powerful voices.

  11. 4 out of 5

    George

    These poems reveal the scale of devastation on personal, geographic, and cultural levels. Whether stark or eloquent, the poetry gives voice to the motivations and aftermath of both the American soldier and the VC, as well as the civilian personnel affected by the turmoil.

  12. 4 out of 5

    C

    A good collection. My favorite poem being "What Saves Us," by Bruce Weigl...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Jones

    standard - well worth the read just to see the poems from both sides of the war.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Histteach24

    A great example of both sides of the Vietnam War. It makes the reader see the emotional point of view of both the Americans and the Vietnamese. A collection of poetry and short stories.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dmshepherd

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  17. 5 out of 5

    Blake

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  21. 4 out of 5

    Luiz Rens

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Murray

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Sergi

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Huff

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  30. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

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