Grant Wood Country Writers Forum 

This 10-week Forum recently ended just prior to Grant Wood's 130th birthday, and culminated in a final project which included essays, short fiction, poetry and information about the ongoing interest, Grant Wood Country Chronicle: An Adventure into the History and Legacy of This Iconic Area. See the Home page to purchase the Chronicle in print or digital editions. 

This inaugural Forum provided fun and interactive opportunities to learn, share, write and connect throughout the winter months. Recent Grant Wood Through Local Eyes presenters Paul C. Juhl and Barbara Feller provided expertise in the area of Grant Wood's life and legacy (and also regarding Wood's friend and influence Jay Sigmund). Facilitator and editor Elaine Mattingly provided historical context for the featured artworks as well as strategies and insights for writers or enthusiasts. Watch this website, as well as Anamosa Library & Learning Center communications for future Forum opportunities.

Grant Wood Country Loose Leaf Poems—And Other Visions 

Dear Reader, 

These, my precious poems, began in the arms of a black walnut tree in Viola, Iowa, a place embedded in a celebrated area known as Grant Wood Country. Some poems have lain fallow for decades; some sprang to life recently. I hope you will enjoy their varied styles, tones and formats. Like people, they tend to go where they will. 

This collection is inspired by several generations of my ancestors—Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch (German), Swedish, Czech/Bohemian, Austrian, Quakers, Methodists, Anabaptists, to name a few. They hail from places like Waubeek, Paralta, Cedar Rapids, Marion, Springville, Viola, and Anamosa. The first-person retellings by relatives—of life before, during, and after the Great Depression (the timeframe of Grant Wood’s life)—linger still, never far from my consciousness, nor imagination. 

This collection is also born of experiences and observations gathered while living in Grant Wood Country from birth well into my adulthood. These poems are influenced by the excellent education I received in the heart of this particular landscape, first at Viola Elementary, then from Anamosa Junior and Senior High Schools (as well as Cornell College, University of Iowa and Iowa State University in subsequent years). Inevitably, this collection is shaped by joys and grapplings—personal, cultural and systemic—many of which continue still. 

Most of all, dear Reader, I want you to know that I feel, in my Grant Wood Country bones, that it can enrich us to revisit the iconic body of work of Iowa’s famous artist-son. And, certainly, with the late Grant Wood Country poet Jay G. Sigmund as model of the voice of the land and people of this area, I wish to continue this legacy—incorporating new sensibilities, experiences and understandings. My poems have sprung organically since girlhood, from the very areas that Mr. Sigmund created his poetry and Grant Wood crafted his immortal paintings. With Wood’s and Sigmund's creations as touchstones, I cannot wait to continue to write—and reveal to you—new poems, songs, stories and sketches. Join me as I take a modern-day journey deep into the land, lore, and current beauty (and challenges) of Grant Wood Country. May we never stop striving to understand each other, nor to reflect upon our shared histories as members of the ever-evolving American family.  —Elaine

POET'S STATEMENT:

Exhilarating it is to witness today's ever-fluid creative possibilities. Today's possibilities blur the boundaries among written, oral, performance and cyber traditions. Contradictions flourish everywhere in the push and pull of the provincial and global, rural and urban, faithful and skeptical, collective and individual, and the Utopian and dystopian.   

From my home observatory in Washer City (Newton), Iowa, the undeniable challenges of globalization continue to loom. This community, a former one-company town (Maytag Corporation), has no choice but to respond. Writers need conflict, and life in Washer City, and the Midwest, provides enough tensions and complexity to keep this native Iowan writing since her teens. The hardwood arms of black walnut trees in the lap of eastern Iowa’s Grant Wood country nurtured my youthful imagination. Muses continue to luxuriate in our welcoming landscape. It is a privilege to call myself Iowan.  —Elaine