For those who know James Hearst primarily as a poet, it may be a surprise to discover that he also was a prolific writer of memoir, essays and fiction. As with his poetry, the prose of James Hearst draws from his background as a farmer and uses that experience to explore issues connected to identity, family and existence itself. However, in prose, Hearst was able to use narrative and storytelling techniques to broadly explore characters both imagined and real.
During his career, James Hearst published three book-length works of prose—the autobiography My Shadow Below Me, the essay collection Time Like a Furrow, and the novel Bonesetter’s Brawl (co-written with Carmelita Calderwood). Additionally, Hearst wrote a variety of other texts that did not appear in book format—farm journalism, philosophical and personal essays, and short fiction—as well as his first published piece, an article on the arrival of radio in rural areas.
James Hearst grew up just west of Cedar Falls, Iowa, on his family’s farm and later worked for many years as a creative writing instructor at the University of Northern Iowa. As he documented his life and experience over much of the 20th Century, laboring on tractors in the field or on his manual typewriter at a family desk, the story of James Hearst was in many ways the story of Cedar Falls.
My Shadow Below Me: James Hearst's Autobiography — Robyn Groth
Bonesetter's Brawl: Murder and Mystery — Sermantha Louisy
Radio Fever: James Hearst's First Publication — Jim O'Loughlin
Uncollected Essays: Insights into Teaching and Life — Rand Khalil