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Book of the Week: Vietnam Ruminations


War poetry in the western tradition makes its appeal to patriots and war protesters alike via pathos expressed through the imagery of military victory and defeat. In Robert Wilson’s haiku about the Vietnam war, Vietnam Ruminations, our Book of the Week, we see a different approach. Partly because Vietnam was such a different kind of war, and so controversial at home in the US, he prefers to see it on its own terms, creating his own rhetoric rather than using the tradition rhetoric of historical justifications. In so doing, he adds to our understanding of the mysterious tenacity and ambiguity of the North Vietnamese peasantry as a natural force, trying to live in oneness with its environment. He also helps us understand the blow back and destabilizing trauma experienced by American forces in answer to their adventuring. Wilson’s explanatory comments add to our understanding and appreciation of the moment in action that led to each haiku.
Thanks are also due to Serge Tome for making this selection for his haiku website,


zipped up in a body bag
this starless night

Over 50,000 American soldiers died during the Vietnam War. Thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers also perished. They fought for their respective ideologies and paid the ultimate price. Once living, breathing human beings, they are memories. We went to war unprepared for the reality it presented us. Many died. The remainder of us went home after our tour of duty, haunted by mental pictures.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2010 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by THF Digital Librarian Garry Eaton, and are used with permission

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This may be the most powerful and truthful recording of Vietnam that I’ve seen. My husband lived through that, and he is also haunted. I wish every person who supports going to war could read this. Thank you for sharing it.

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