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Dien Cai Dau (Wesleyan Poetry) [Paperback]

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Item description for Dien Cai Dau (Wesleyan Poetry) by Yusef Komunyakaa...

Memories and history combine in these poems about the Vietnam War

Publishers Description
Poetry that precisely conjures images of the war in Vietnam by an award-winning author.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wesleyan
Pages   72
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.25" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.25 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 1988
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819511641  
ISBN13  9780819511645  

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More About Yusef Komunyakaa

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Yusef Komunyakaa's twelve books of poems include Taboo, Warhorses, Talking Dirty to the Gods, and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Komunyakaa first received wide recognition following the 1984 publication of Copacetic, a collection of poems built from colloquial speech which demonstrated his incorporation of jazz influences. He followed the book with two others: I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; and Dien Cai Dau (1988), which won The Dark Room Poetry Prize and has been cited by poets such as William Matthews and Robert Hass as being among the best writing on the war in Vietnam. Komunyakaa is the recipient of the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His other honors include the William Faulkner Prize from the Universite de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches poetry and creative writing in the Department of English at New York University.

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in 1947 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Indiana University.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Anthologies
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > African American > Komunyakaa, Yusef
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > Poetry > African American

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Reviews - What do customers think about Dien Cai Dau (Wesleyan Poetry)?

Komunyakaa's imagery brings to life the Vietnam War  Apr 29, 2004
Yusef Komunyakaa is the kind of poet that wins people over with his honesty. I agree with Adam from Mercer Island when he says that "This is powerful poetry, so much that when I read it I feel like I'm there, watching him and the surroundings that he witnessed in his mind so well." The most impressive aspect of Komunyakaa's poetry is his ability to create realistic visual images within the mind of the reader. The poet does, as Adam from Mercer Island mentioned, make the reader feel as if they are a part of the moment. The connection created allows the reader to fully understand the depth of meaning in each poem. There are several poems within Dien Cai Dau that accurately depict this concept.
The poem "A Greenness Taller Than Gods" is an excellent example of Komunyakaa's use of imagery. The poem begins with, "When we stop,/a green snake starts again/through deep branches./Spiders mend webs we marched into./Monkeys jabber in flame trees,/" (1-5) It is evident from the opening lines that Komunyakaa has a talent for creating visual images. It is like the reader is there with his platoon marching through the jungle and taking orders from the point man. In each of his poems, Komunyakaa also shows the fragile side of the soldiers. In "A Greenness Taller Than Gods", the speaker conveys this fragility by voicing the fears of the soldier. Lines 9-12 state, "The lieutenant puts on sunglasses/& points to an X circled/on his map. When will we learn/to move like trees moves?". The soldier struggles to move like trees knowing full well that it is not possible to do so. The reader gets the idea that the soldiers attempted to do many things that verged on impossible, which causes the reader to sympathize with their situation. Another poem that causes the reader to sympathize with the speaker of the poem is "You and I are Disappearing".
In "You and I are Disappearing", the poet is describing a scene that most people would never want to see in their lifetime. The opening lines state, "The cry I bring down from the hills/belongs to a girl still burning/inside my head. At daybreak/she burns like a piece of paper." (1-4). The visual image created here is vivid, although disturbing. The poet goes on to use several similes to further describe the state of the burning girl. The picture that is painted in the mind of the reader is graphic and forces the reader to understand what the soldiers of Vietnam had to witness and take part in. The poem is a successful attempt at portraying the depravity of the Vietnam War.
Along with Adam from Mercer Island, I too enjoyed the poem "Thanks". This poem creates some very realistic visual images and makes the reader think long and hard about luck and fate. The speaker of the poem is a soldier who is thanking whomever was responsible for him living through the war. Although I agree with Adam from Mercer Island in that the poem is touching, I do not see how it would be heartbreaking. I believe that the overall feel of the poem is encouraging. It makes the reader feel like there is always someone or something watching out for those that we care about when they are at war. I think that "Thanks" is one of the most uplifting poems in the entire book.
Other than the visual images that Komunayaa creates, another strong aspect to his poetry is the way in which he looks at war. As Adam from Mercer Island describes, "He [Komunyakaa] talks about the soldier's main preoccupation: women, home, warm smiles, grenades, RPG's, and dying-of course.". In the poem "Between Days", the poet speaks of a mother whose son has died in the war. The woman does not want to face the fact that she has lost her son, therefore she pretends like he is still going to come home. This aspect of war, the ones left behind, is not a popular subject for war poetry. The poem is such an accurate portrayal of the things that mothers must feel when they lose their sons in battle. The heartbreak is so hard to bear that they just avoid the situation all together. The poet depicts the scene in lines 6-13 by saying, "The room is just as he left it/fourteen years ago, everything/freshly dusted and polished/with lemon oil. The uncashed/death check from Uncle Sam/marks a passage in the Bible/on the dresser, next to the photo/staring out through the window.". Komunyakaa portrays the woman as holding on when war is thought to be about letting go. The woman is faithful to her son even after fourteen years and the situation is both encouraging and heartbreaking. Encouraging in the sense that the woman is still willing to wait for her son and won't cash his death check, but heartbreaking in that the reader knows that one day she is going to have to face the fact that her son is gone.
Komunyakaa's poetry is inspiring. He takes war and puts it into images and concepts that even someone who has never and will never experience war can relate to.
Each poem takes a different look at the Vietnam War, or just war in general, which allows the reader to better understand the situations and feelings that come with fighting in a war. Komunyakaa is an excellent poet and truly has a gift for connecting to his audience. Dien Cai Dau is a powerful book of poetry that uses imagery to connect the reader to the speaker in each poem which, in turn, will bring a new understanding of the Vietnam War to anyone who reads it.
Aesthetic War Poetry  Apr 27, 2004
Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa is an artistic display of visual imagery through his writing. Komunyakaa's graphic depictions and strong language stem from emotionally charged subjects and lend themselves unselfishly to the works in this book. Since Komunyakaa served in the Vietnam War as a wartime correspondent, his ties to the detail and imagery that he displays in this book are unquestionable. The author allows the reader a safe passage back to the time and place of one of the most tragic wars in American history by painting individual pictures through each one of his poems. Komunyakaa gives the reader an opportunity to experience the knee-buckling power that war lends to a man's life. The chance to understand what might have been going through someone's head at that time and place is too good to pass up, even if you are not a war poetry fan.

There is more to Dien Cai Dau than just war. In this book of poetry, there is both powerful and graceful imagery. The poetry may depict a harsh or solemn scene; however, the imagery allows the reader to experience that scene to the fullest extent. Take for example this excerpt from "Roll Call"- "The perfect row aligned/with the chaplain's cross/ while a metallic-gray squadron/ of sea gulls circled" (p.15, 10-13). The poem that this image comes from is referring to a respect filled tradition that each platoon had of calling roll for those soldiers who had fallen in battle. The "metallic-gray squadron/ of sea gulls" (12-13) lends the notion of a fly-by of military planes, which is often done to honor those who have passed away or to commemorate a special occasion. Allowing nature, in this case the sea gulls, to honor those who fight to protect the land and rights of those who cannot protect themselves gives this poem a powerful meaning.
Another image that the author paints in our minds is that of the veteran after the war has ended. "Sometimes I can hear them/ marching through the house, /closing the distance. All/ those lonely beds take me back" (16-19). These lines allow the reader not only to see what a veteran would see, but also see why a veteran would not share his past as the author states in lines 13-15. It is with this type of imagery the author gives the reader a glimpse into the mind, heart and soul of a soldier who has been in war.

The type imagery displayed in "Roll Call" is rampant amongst the poems in this book. The demonstration of artistic writing and imagination that Komunyakaa shows in Dien Cai Dau is incredible. There are those who have never seen war and write as if they had, Komunyakaa lived this experience which allows him to put his visions of the battle field and of the somber results on the pages of his book. The strong imagery, life and emotion that Komunyakaa shows in this book are what make this book of poetry so fantastic.

"Dien Cai Dau"- prominent Vietnam War writing  Apr 27, 2004
The poetic memoirs of Yusef Komunyakaa in the book "Dien Cai Dau" are based upon the poet's various experiences overseas during the Vietnam War. "Dien Cai Dau" is a superb collection of wartime poetry. Yusef Komunyakaa is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who served in the Vietnam War as a correspondent and editor for a newspaper. The aesthetic imagery Komunyakaa uses within his collection of Vietnam War poetry wonderfully captures the explosive scenery and experiences gathered throughout his time spent over there during combat. This is a collection of Vietnam War time poetry well worth reading.

During one of the more impressive poems within the collection, "Somewhere Near Phu Bai," Komunyakaa and the speaker expresses his nighttime duty of watching the placement of the claymore mines. The claymore mines were being monitored because the enemy was known to rotate the grass floor bombs around, so upon engagement, they would blast onto the opposite forces instead of the enemy's. The poem begins with the line "The moon cuts through night trees like circular saw white hot" (1). The ominous image of the white moon cutting through the dark sky like a saw corresponds with the jagged, gloomy evening. The image of a moon is repeated throughout the poem as the speaker/man on duty describes "The white-painted backs of the Claymore mines like quarter moons." (14,15,16). Through repetition of the imagery Komunyakaa engrains the shadowy image of the night moon, and the fatal image of the bombs being shaped like moons as well. This is an effective correlation, because readers associate the night with the moonlike mines as does the speaker whose orders are to observe the mines. The claymore mines become his night. Comparisons and correlations like this occur throughout the collected poems allowing the audience to experience along with the speaker each wartime event. This is one of the wonderful attributes within Komunyakaa's writing because he really invites the reader to engage himself or her within the book.

Many of Komunyakaa's poems within his war poetry collection depict circumstances in which he remembers events during the war, and the recollections of these events reflect his emotions gathered during these experiences. Through the speaker's emotional stance, the book is successful in gathering an emotional response from the reader. The poet's ability to gather such emotional contact and responses from the reader constructs a memorable literary work. One brilliant poem within the book, "Roll Call," achieves the idea of gathering an emotional response from the audience. The poem describes a day in which a platoon of troops honors those that were killed during combat. The bodies are missing so the living war buddies are "lined up for reveille, ready to roll-call each M-16 propped upright between a pair of jungle boots, a helmet on its barrel as if it were a man" (4,5,6,7,8,9). The image of the surviving men "burying" their dead invites an emotional response from the reader. A response that is formulated on how one feels when a solider dies during combat.
Never held a gun in my life  Jul 1, 2003
This is powerful poetry, so much that when I read it I feel like I'm there, watching him and the surroundings that he witnessed in his mind so well.

Some of his metaphors are almost magical in their quality, their effusiveness, and ability to draw you in. It's also helped by the fact that very few poets write about war like this. Sure, there've been the I Rhyme, You Die poets from the civil war or other periods of history, but nothing like this.

He talks about the soldier's main preoccupation: women, home, warm smiles, grenades, RPG's, and dying--of course. All the while you know that there's this inherent sadness he can't talk about while he's a soldier. That's what makes these poems run so deep. I especially liked the poem "Thanks". It was heartbreaking for me.

It's beautiful reading about these scars, sad as they may be. Being a Soldier is a tough man's job, and hopefully people will read this book of poems and realize that.

Incredible Images, Wonderful Words  Jan 1, 2000
I read this book of poems for the first time in a literary analysis class in college. I hadn't really enjoyed or understood poetry up to that point and certainly didn't imagine it would be something that I would want to focus my studies on. This collection blew me away. I ended up doing my honors thesis on Vietnam War Poetry, using this book as a standard by which I judged others. Most war poetry is very boring because it represents a heroic look back in attempt to glorify war. This book is nothing like that it is an incredible adventure into the realities of war and its effects on the psyche. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK AND ANYTHING ELSE BY KOMUNYAKAA. He is an incredible poet. I would also highly recommend the works of BRUCE WEIGL. I wrote of his work in my thesis as well. They are both incredible writers.

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