A Shadow on Our Hearts
Soldier-Poetry, Morality, and the American War in Vietnam
The American war in Vietnam was one of the most morally contentious events of the twentieth century, and it produced an extraordinary outpouring of poetry. Yet the complex ethical terrain of the conflict is remarkably underexplored, and the prodigious poetic voice of its American participants remains largely unheard. In A Shadow on Our Hearts, I rectify these oversights by utilizing the vast body of soldier-poetry to examine the war’s core moral issues.
The soldier-poets provide important insights into the ethical dimensions of their physical and psychological surroundings before, during, and after the war. They also offer profound perspectives on the relationships between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people. From firsthand experiences, they reflect on what it meant to be witnesses, victims, and perpetrators of the war’s violence. And they advance an uncompromising vision of moral responsibility that indicts a range of culprits for the harms caused by the conflict. I explore the powerful and perceptive work of these soldier-poets through the lens of morality and present a radically alternative, deeply personal, and ethically penetrating account of the American war in Vietnam.
“This is the real deal—the big book on soldier-poetry of the Vietnam War that we have waited a half a century to get written.”—Philip Beidler, author of American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam and Re-writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation