Season of Mists by G. Lowell Tollefson

Lowell Tollefson spent his youth in Southeast Asia and East Asia, an experience that informs his depiction of the regions and its people. Tollefson, a former college philosophy professor, is the author of a book of poetry, Vietnam War Elegy, and a collection of essays, What is War? He served as a United States Marine during the Vietnam War.

His latest book, Season of Mists (LLT Press, 90 pp., $5.50, paper; $0.99, Kindle), is a short novel written from the enemy’s perspective. The main character is a Vietnamese peasant who joins the Viet Cong. His name is Nguyen Duc Thuy. This book is over hardly before it has begun. I would have liked it to have been twice as long.

We are told that the Viet Cong seek to “make the great American military machine feel the weight of its over encumbrance.” Certainly the stripped-down fighting methods of the VC, who traveled fast and light, were in serious contrast to the Americans who oftentimes moved around the war zone with all the stealth of a marching band.

The novel is long enough to communicate that the main character’s love of family and land give him the strength and will to persist until the cursed foreigners have withdrawn. We see the horrifying suffering that peasants endured during the war. We also see why America with all its might failed to affect the hearts of the Vietnamese people to give up on their goal—to get their country back from the latest in a series of what they saw as invaders.

G. Lowell Tollefson

I highly recommend this novel—especially to those who have tired of reading American novels and memoirs that contend that we didn’t lose that war against little Vietnamese people who lived in rude huts and used animals to farm rather than tractors. When high technology is launched against low technology, high technology is in serious peril.

The Viet Cong had millions of acres of free bamboo to build bridges. Those bridges cost us millions to bomb to oblivion. But oblivion only lasted a few hours, and the bridges were back in place.

The American war in Vietnam is a textbook example of how a war can be lost if political and military leaders fail to understand the enemy. Read this book to find out what the enemy was like on the ground. Tollefson does an amazing job of getting into the minds and hearts of the enemy and making them human.

—David Willson

Vietnam War Elegy by G. Lowell Tollefson

G. Lowell Tollefson served in Vietnam as a Marine civil affairs interpreter attached to an infantry battalion. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Washington and has taught philosophy at the University of New Mexico’s Valencia campus.

The long poem that makes up the book Vietnam War Elegy (LLT Press, 34 pp., $5.50, paper) “was born on a hilltop over forty-five years ago in Vietnam,” Tollefson tell us. “Time and the loss of this war have shown America that it was politically wrong in prosecuting it.”

Tollefson takes to task the use of H & I (harassment and interdiction fire) as he saw many innocent people die from that indiscriminate use of heavy ordnance. He says that it is time we owned up to it. “Let us admit the full measure of what we have done and learn from it,” he writes. “This is the reason I have written and am now publishing this elegy.”

Tollefson

There are some great lyrics in this elegy. Chapter 6, I believe, is the strongest example of Tollefson’s poetic gifts and moral sensibilities:

 

Along the copses of trees, the dense

jungle, beside the corn fields,

honeycombed like the damp-rooted rice

we set out ambushes and waited.

 

In the morning after the killing, we

washed the night away with sunlit

patrols.  The people were smiling, over-

joyed they could see us and to know

where we were.  They brought us

their broken-skulled, infected, rancid corpses.

 

We gave them candy, placebos, the stone

silence of force.  Fractured and folded in flat

fields under bombs, this peasant nation

endured, drawn to closure in a rhythm of

wounds, shadowed in movement like a snake come together,

come out of an old skin into one.

 

C. Lowell Toleffson is a new, strong voice in Vietnam War poetry. I look forward to his next work.

—David Willson