Part of the regionalist movement that included Grant Wood, Paul Engle, Hamlin Garland, and Jay G. Sigmund, James Hearst helped create what Iowa novelist Ruth Suckow called ""a poetry of place."" A lifelong Iowa farner, Hearst began writing poetry at age nineteen and eventually wrote thirteen books of poems, a novel, short stories, cantatas, and essays, which gained him a devoted following Many of his poems were published in the regionalist periodicals of the time, including the Midland, and by the great regional presses, including Carroll Coleman's Prairie Press. Drawing on his experiences as a farmer, Hearst wrote with a distinct voice of rural life and its joys and conflicts, of his own battles with physical and emotional pain (he was partially paralyzed in a farm accident), and of his own place in the world. His clear eye offered a vision of the midwestern agrarian life that was sympathetic but not sentimental - a people and an art rooted in place.
Scott Cawelti is professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of The Inventive Writer and Introduction to College Writing. He also writes a weekly column for the Waterloo Courier and has been a commentator for National Public Radio.