The relationship between Yusef Komunyakaa, Walt Whitman, and war is simple at an initial glance, but becomes more in depth as you look further in to the specifics of their individual experiences. Komunyakaa has experience as a participant of war, one that he pictures for his readers in Dien Cai Dau. His experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam war have a profound effect on him ,as much as Walt Whitman’s experiences as a wound-dresser in the Civil War. Whitman’s Drum Taps would be the most obvious predecessor of Komunyakaa’s Dien Cai Dau. I would like to create a meshed view on both of these poets in reference to their experiences in war and how these experiences made an impact and a showing in their writing.
The relationship between Komunyakaa, Whitman, and war is an interesting one because of the differing experiences of war they both had, in time and what the did in their respective wars. Also, the influence of Whitman on Komunyakaa that is apparent in his poem “Kosmos,” and the many essays Komunyakaa has written on differing subjects that reference Whitman. Komunyakaa seems to view Whitman as an erring figure, but one that lessons can be learned from. The influence of war is a personal one for both men, and it shows in their writing.
How war happens and how it affects the men and women that participate in it, in the different ways that they do is important though sometimes difficult to understand. They seem like such disparate writers and it seems interesting that Komunyakaa repeatedly references Whitman in his scholarly writing, but he must see something in the man that he deems worth acknowledging and appreciating. I’m delving further into what makes the draw of Whitman and the play between the experiences of war with both Whitman and Komunyakaa an interesting and worthy relationship.