tribution by resurrecting attention torntheir lives and work.rnSigmund, born in the village ofrnWaubeek on the banks of the WapsipiniconrnRiver, moved at age 19 to nearbvrnCedar Rapids and cventuallv becamernan insurance executive. Yet he devotedrnhis main energies to poetry, most of itrnfocused on the flora, fauna, and folk ofrnthe VVapsipinicon valley. Following hisrnuntimely death in 1957, his fellow CedarrnRapids poet, Paul Englc, wrote an obituaryrnthat in many respects defined thernregionalist vision:rnI lere is to me the most magnificentrnaspect of ]a Sigmund, thatrnhe helped to make a city and arncountry [side] not merely a goodrnplace to raise a family but to writerna poem or paint a picture. Hernmade art at home in a little area ofrnthe earth. This is a great destinyrnfor any man. .. . Our national lifernmust acquire this creative force,rnwhen artists walk on the street andrntalk naturally with all manner ofrnmen, and when the people withrnwhom they live as neighbors recognizernthem for their craft, and takernthem into their homes.rnThe themes of soil and folk, and thernmounting—if still quiet—crisis of Iowa’srn”commonwealth of small towns” dominatedrnthe work of Ruth Suckow. Firstrnpublished in The Midland, where shernserved briefly as an editor, and then “discovered”rnand promoted nationally byrnn.L. Mencken, Suckow eschewed thernromanticism of the “farm irovels.” Shernportrayed, instead, the dislocation ofrnlowans as thev lost direct connectionrnwith the land. Her best novel, ‘I’he Folksrn(1930; now in print again, from Burr OakrnBooks), emphasized the decline of thernchurch as an integrative social force, therndecay of folk life and custom under a relentlessrncommercial homogenization,rnand the rebellion of the town’s children,rnwho left their natal home for GreenwichrnVillage, Taos, and California.rnSuckow also wrote a series of essaysrnunder the titles “Iowa,” “The Folk Idearnin American Life,” and “Middle WesternrnLiterature,” striving to define thernIowa mythos. “At its best,” she wrote, “itrnis innocently ingenuous, fresh and sincere,rnunpretentious, and essentially ample,rnwith a certain quality of pure lovelinessrn—held together and strengthenedrnby the simplicity and severity of its hardworkingrnfarmer people.”rnThe better-known leaders of the Iowarnrenaissance—Engle and Grant Wood—rnalso draw fair analysis from Burns. As anrnIowa child of the late 1950’s, I knew Englernas the aging “poet laureate” of myrnstate, famed for his verse.s about “corn.”rnAn adult might better appreciate hisrnwondrous celebration of fertility:rnIowa, rier rounded.rnFields that rise and fall like arnwoman walking . . .rnFor always. There is the greatrnpulse beat of moon and sun,rnThe mother giving of plow-brokenrnearthrnWhen the fat bellies of autumnalrnf)arns,rnGrow big with harvest.rnGrant Wood took center place in thernmovement during the 1930’s, striving—rnperhaps with a sense of foreboding—torngive it institutional form. Born of IowarnQuaker stock, and a full or part-timernfarmer most of his life, Wood modeledrnhis early paintings on the French Impressionists.rnYet he spent the summers ofrn1927 and 1928 with Jay Sigmund, in thernlatter’s Waubeek cottage, and also befriendedrnRuth Suckow. These bondsrnstimulated his own artistic rebellion. Asrnhe later wrote: “Painting has declared itsrnindependence from Europe, and is retreatingrnfrom the cities to the morernAmerican village and country life.” E^arlyrnresults were American Gothic (1930),rnwhich quickly propelled Wood to nationalrnfame, and a series of landscapes inrnwhich he captured the color and bounteousrnroll of the Iowa countryside.rnIn 1932-33, Wood established an artrncolon)- at Stone City, actually a small villagernalong the Wapsipinieon. Accordingrnto Burns, the days of conversation, classes,rnpainting, and personal encountersrnwhich took place there “marked a kindrnof apogee of regionalist art.” In 1935,rnWood published the essay Revolt Againstrnthe City (ghost-written, Burns suggests,rnby Frank I .uther Mott of the Universityrnof Iowa’s journalism school), whichrncalled on “thinking painters and writers”rnin all American regions to discover theirrnown locales, and craft a national renaissance:rn”When the different regions developrncharacteristics of their own, theyrnwill come into competition with eachrnother, and out of the competition a richrnAmerican culture will grow.”rnA charming expression of regionalistrncooperation came in 1935, with thernfounding of the Prairie Press in Muscatine.rnInspired by Grant Wood, thernyoung printer Carroll Coleman resolvedrn”to follow, in publishing, the regionalismrnwhich he [Wood] advocated in painting.rnI envisioned writers, artists, and printersrnworking together to produce beautifulrnbooks which would embody tlie life andrnthought of the heart of this great Mississippirnalley region.” Striking volumes, inrnhandset type, followed, including ContemporaryrnIowa Poets (1935) and CountryrnMen (1938).rnBut the Iowa literary and artisticrnmovement, still so brilliant in the latern1930’s, died suddenly. “World War IIrnadministered the coup de grace,” Burnsrnwrites soberly. “lowans lifted their sightsrnto global horizons, and they, thus far,rnhave found it difficult to focus internallyrnagain.” On every side, national and internationalrnpurposes took priority overrnlocal ones, as the more prescient AmericarnFirsters had feared. Tens of thousandsrnof lowans were mobilized for war or warrnwork and scattered across the nation andrnglobe. Labor shortages on the land acceleratedrnthe introduction of heavy farmrnmachines, marking the long deferred triumphrnof capital over human and animalrnlabor. Mechanized Iowa farmers. Burnsrnnotes, no longer directly touched thernsoil, weakening the sacred relationshiprnbetween folk and nature—the veryrntheme which had animated the Iowarnwriters and artists. Symbolicalh’, thernUniversity of Iowa’s writing seminar,rnonce a hotbed of regionalist fervor, becamernthe International Writing Programrnof the postwar years.rnGrant Wood died, providentially itrnseems, on February 12, 1942, barely twornmonths after the events at Pearl I lad^or.rnRuth Suckow’s last “Iowa” book appearedrnthe same year, as she moved tornCalifornia for reasons of health. “Academic”rnIowa writers such as John T.rnFrederick and Frank I ,uther Mott movedrnon to teaching jobs in Indiana and Minnesota.rnA vibrant literary and artisticrnepisode so came to an end, victim of arnnation marching off to global war, culturalrnintegration, and empire. Fortunately,rnE. Bradford Burns’ splendid Kinshiprnwith the Land stands, along with thernIowa renaissance itself, as a “rich legacyrn. . . to encourage or to taunt,” a vision ofrnwhat was, what might have been, and—rnless clearly—of what might be again.rnMARCH 1997/27rnrnrn