Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology
by Chila Woychik
In the foreword to Singing the Land, author Stephanie E. Dickinson writes, “I have been waiting for someone to bring Iowa, the black soil breadbasket of my youth and the mono-crop cornucopia of my maturity, to enduring life . . . Chila Woychik has written such a book.” Part memoir, part travelogue, part lyrical essay, Singing the Land records life on a family farm in Iowa over the span of a year. We read about the never-ending cycle of events that serves as the lyrics to her song of love and respect for the land— snowstorms and windstorms, mountain lions and coyotes, crop- and life-destroying flash floods, newborn ducklings and calves, herbicides and pesticides that harm the life-giving nutrients of soil. Throughout, Woychik returns again and again to themes of sacrifice, loss, love, struggle, and, above all, time. “Time is a peace child with daisies. A joker with a card up its sleeve. Time is a wristwatch strung to the arm of fate. Time flies and dives and dies.”
NATURE / General
ISBN: 978-1-951651-23-7 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released May 2020
German-born Chila Woychik has lived in the American Midwest most of her life. She was born via midwife above a Bavarian chocolate haus and thus began her enduring love of fine chocolates. When not feeding sheep or chickens or petting barn cats, she enjoys seeing her family roll their eyes when she calls river debris “tidewrack.” She is widely published in various journals across the country.
Stephanie E. Dickinson lives in New York City with the poet Rob Cook and their senior feline, Vallejo. Her novels Half Girl and Lust Series are published by Spuyten Duyvil, as is her feminist noir Love Highway. Other books include Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg (New Michigan Press), Flashlight Girls Run (New Meridian Arts Press), The Emily Fables (ELJ), Girl Behind the Door (Rain Mountain Press), and her just-released Big-Headed Anna Imagines Herself (Alien Buddha). Her stories have been reprinted in New Stories from the South, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. At present she’s finishing a collection of essays entitled Maximum Compound based on her longtime correspondence with inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, New Jersey.
“I told myself: I’ll just read the first essay then get back to work. Instead, I got swallowed up and lost track of time within Chila Woychik’s beautiful lyricism about rural living in Iowa. The first essay fed into the first month. The chapter on January led to February. Soon it was June before I could put this book down. Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology pulls you in. It grows on you, grows within you. Swallows you up whole just as she is swallowed up by her rural life. This book is a modern take on Fan Chengda’s examination of a single place across a year. For Fan, it was Stone Lake. For Woychik, it’s a small Iowan homestead. But this book is so much more. It’s also an examination of ideas as she reflects on time, sound (or soundlessness), bravery, migration, and onward, probing these concepts across the months, both globally and locally. And all of this examination is a beautiful song, a lyric to her land. A song that asks us to examine, deeply, our own lands. Settle in as Woychik takes us, day by day, through the year and through her life. Buy this book. Read this book. And then go out into your own yard, your own world, and plant something—a tomato plant—or stoop down and observe something—the land at your feet or the home you are from. That’s what Singing the Land does: it asks us to see, anew, our world."
“In Chila Woychik's Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology, ‘rural’ is not merely a location; it is an engine that feeds plentiful meditations on time, movement, farming, and family. Broken into a year in her life farming in Iowa, this collection of essays has firm roots on the farm in the present moment and yet wanders, to the Illinois of the author's childhood, to a quiet chamber in Minneapolis, and the wide open wilds of Alaska. Looking inward and outward, backwards and forwards, Woychik's language is at once playful and evocative, inviting and probing. Woychik confidently demonstrates how we are “all wrapped up in this lyric, blanketed in this kismet called rural’”
“Singing the Land invites us to experience a deep connection to the joys and necessities of rural living. The language is beautiful and the descriptions of rural Iowa life are intimate and familiar without ever being cliched. Woychik explores with humor and humility the varied rhythms of country living—daily, seasonal, and generational. Singing the Land would fit well on a shelf with Mary Oliver and Ted Kooser, Kathleen Norris and Jim Harrison. It could serve as a master class in the art of the lyric essay.”
“This seamless, lovely book captures the wildness that lurks under the deceptively quiet surface of the rural middle of the US. The wildness of snowstorms, of sunsets, of wind, of mountain lions and coyotes, of crop- and life-destroying flash floods, of cows that appear suddenly in the middle of a narrow road at night, of damp-baled hay that bursts into flame. The wildness of birth and death. The wildness of soil and sky.”
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