Poems, a professor, and pizza were the three p’s of the Honor’s Student Advisory Board’s (HSAB) Professors with Pizza. Roughly fifteen honor’s students gathered on the night of Wednesday, March 7th at 5:30 pm in the Honor’s Cottage for this installment of Profs n’ Pizza featuring English assistant professor Dr. Jeremy Schraffenberger. Dr. Schraffenberger presented a brief lecture over the poetry and life of James Hearst, an Iowan native and poet.
Dr. Schraffenberger began to speak about the life of James Hearst, and it was easy to see the passion he has for Hearst’s life. He brought this passion into his teaching speaking about Hearst’s early life and how he was more than Iowa’s regional poet. Hearst’s eventual fame as a poet may have never have occurred had it not been for his accident during 1919, when he broke his neck while jumping into Cedar Fall’s own Cedar River. For the rest of his life, he was forced to rely on others to help him. His dependence led to him permanently living on the family farm, which was located in what now is Cedar Falls, with his brothers. Hearst was able to occasionally help with the farm work, and it was during this period of his life that Hearst gained that deep commitment to farming that would come to define his poetry. Eventually, however, he could no longer do even this and ended up working as a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Hearst married late to Miss Carmelita Calderwood, but they never had children.
Dr. Schraffenberger had the honors students read several of Hearst’s poems, including earlier poems such as “The Reason for Stars” and “Voices,” as well as later, more mature poems such as “Plowman,” “The Vine,” and “Landscape-Iowa.” The earlier poems were not as well developed, lacking the contemplative attitude of his later poems. For example, Hearst’s very early poem “Voices” was a less well developed poem that used redundant imagery of a sailing ship and expressed his desire to leave Iowa. “The Vine,” a more mature poem, did not use a redundant rhyme scheme as he described a farmer pulling a strong weed out of the ground, which was a metaphor for the farmer’s, as well as all farmers’, connection to the earth.
Dr. Schraffenberger then let the students know that he was willing to answer questions, and so student Theresa Luensmann asked Dr. Schraffenberger if “Hearst wrote any poetry before his accident?” Dr. Schraffenberger replied that he really only became a writer of poetry after his accident. Another student, Jessica Clark, asked him, “What aspect of Hearst’s poetry makes it good and famous?” Dr. Schraffenberger answered her by saying that Hearst was famous because he was an Iowan farmer poet, but was good because his poetry was complex and able to transcend his farming roots.