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, Adam Gilbert rectifies 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. Gilbert explores the powerful and perceptive work of these soldier-poets through the lens of morality and presents a radically alternative, deeply personal, and ethically penetrating account of the American war in Vietnam.