The early 1960s to the mid-1970s was one of the most turbulent periods in American history. The U.S. military was engaged in its longest, costliest overseas conflict, while the home front was torn apart by riots, protests, and social activism. In the midst of these upheavals, an underground and countercultural press emerged, giving activists an extraordinary forum for a range of imaginative expressions. Poetry held a prominent place in this alternative media. The poem was widely viewed by activists as an inherently anti-establishment form of free expression, and poets were often in the vanguards of political activism.
Hearts and Minds is the first book-length study of the poems of the Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, and GI Resistance movements during the Vietnam era. Drawing on recent cultural and literary theories, Bibby investigates the significance of images, tropes, and symbols of human bodies in activist poetry. Many key political slogans of the period––"black is beautiful," "off our backs"––foreground the body. Bibby demonstrates that figurations of bodies marked important sites of social and political struggle.
Although poetry played such an important role in Vietnam-era activism, literary criticism has largely ignored most of this literature. Bibby recuperates the cultural-historical importance of Vietnam-era activist poetry, highlighting both its relevant contexts and revealing how it engaged political and social struggles that continue to motivate contemporary history. Arguing for the need to read cultural history through these "underground" texts, Hearts and Minds offers new grounds for understanding the recent history of American poetry and the role poetry has played as a medium of imaginative political expression.