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On Common Ground

On Common Ground: Learning and Living in the Loess Hills | Ryan Allen & Brian T. Hazlett (editors) | Isbn 9781948509459 | 242 pages | $24.95 | Color photographs | Available Now.

On Common Ground is an exciting multidisciplinary, multimodal project and partnership between the arts and sciences. This convergence of writers, naturalists, artists, and various -ologists took place in the fall of 2021 in the northern Loess Hills. These hills form a narrow band along the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain for approximately 200 miles, stretching much of the Iowa border. Sculpted from the deepest deposits of wind-borne glacial silt in the United States, these Hills remain home to a significant collection, both in size and number, of Iowa’s remnant prairies.

Early Praises:

“In On Common Ground, Ryan Allen and Brian T. Hazlett have brought together a remarkable collection of writers to explore and reflect upon a bountiful but threatened landscape—the Loess Hills. From the natural history essay to poetry, this book uses the full scope of literary imagination to allow the reader to enjoy the subtle beauty of a precious land formation. A book to read and re-read for a fuller appreciation of how the arts can illuminate science.”–Mary Swander, author of Land of the Fragile Giants.

“When scientists, writers, artists and other humanists come together in a particular landscape with the intention of being schooled by that place—its plants, animals, soils, weathers, and waters—new insights are bound to emerge. On Common Ground is a rich mix of insightful natural history, visual arts, poetry, and personal essays that will help foster a deeper relationship to the Loess Hills.”—Charles Goodrich, author of Weave Me a Crooked Basket: a novel and co-editor of In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helens

“These writers and artists have captured the spirit and soul of sense of place … the hills will call you home.”—Jeanette & Bruce Hopkins, authors, Lady Bug Waltz & When Foxes Wore Red Vests

“Out of a weekend gathering of scientists, theologians, writers, artists, musicians and conservationists emerges an anthology that will speak to Cather, Leopold, Sandoz, Rolvaag, and Manfred enthusiasts, and to all lovers of the land. Creators Ryan Allen and Brian Hazlett bring together diverse voices that understand and bear witness to those striving to preserve these “fragile giants,” the Loess Hills. On Common Ground is a remarkable and valuable testimony to the past and present and future of this land.”
Tricia Currans-Sheehan, PhD, Professor of English/Writing, Editor of The Briar Cliff Review

On Common Ground represents opportunity and potential—for discovery, for understanding, and for growth. The poet Joseph Brodsky writes, “Geography blended with time equals destiny.” At the soul of this project are fundamental questions: What can literature and visual images bring that science cannot? What can science show us about the Hills that the arts appear to miss?

The essays, poetry, photographs, and sketches in this collection represent the shared pursuit of this understanding and a commitment to our collective cause: to better understand the land and our relationship to it, and how this informs our identity and purpose. On Common Ground is the next step and model on how we can best learn about a place when people connect—with themselves, one another, and the natural world.

Contributors: John T. Price, Dan O’Brien, Connie Mutel, Patrick Hicks, Vincent Miller, Melanie Krieps Mergen, Norma Wilson, Kristen Drahos, Jim Helfers, Aric Michael Ping, Daryl Smith, William M. Zales, Mike Langley, Jerry Wilson, Nan Wilson, Scott R. Moats, as well as a Foreword by James Schaap.