Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts




Creative Writing & Environment

First Advisor

Debra Marquart


Precarious paradise: Toolesboro, Iowa tells a tale of a very small but extremely significant place on a river bluff in southeastern Iowa, site of both 2,000-year-old Native American burial mounds and an ancestral farm dating back to early white settlement in 1835. Through poems, field notes, and an historical essay, it conjures up both ancient and pioneer past, as well as the flourishing present of the prairie reestablished on what had been crop land for 175 years. In a variety of poetic forms from free verse to villanelle and sonnet, cento and prose poem, as well as in free-flowing notes recounting the author’s observations made on myriad walks around and through the prairie, this hybrid collection strives to depict seasonal life and death on the small tallgrass prairie accurately and empathetically.

The place we now call Toolesboro has been and is a place of boundless beauty, but also of danger, beset by invasive species, both human and nonhuman, competing for sovereignty. Though lack of respect toward native peoples was shown in the past, the works in this thesis are dedicated to honoring their heritage as well as appreciating the legacy of the pioneers by heralding the natural beauty and bounty of the land that sustained them both.


Copyright Owner

Nancy Priester Hayes



File Format


File Size

119 pages