Barbara Hurd
Barbara Hurd  
“Meanwhile, we go on, accumulating and discarding what we can. Debris piles up. We ignore it or, given luck, patience and a trace of consciousness, we sculpt it into something useful, begin to understand that if every distinction we make between freak and human were tempered by uncertainty, then we might begin to change our lives. Faced with the winged and fishy, the buggy and scaled inside us all, we might find a way to be less monstrous.”
from Barbara Hurd’s “Fine Distinctions” in Walking the Wrack Line:
On Tidal Shifts and What Remains
Published Books
The following collections of essays are all available from the University of Georgia Press:
Stirring the
On Swamps,
Bogs, and Human Imagination
reviewers’ comments
Entering the Stone:
On Caves and Feeling Through
the Dark
reviewers’ comments
Walking the Wrack Line:
On Tidal Shifts
and What
reviewers’ comments
Listening to the Savage / River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies:
(forthcoming 2016)
Poetry/Prose Poems:
Stepping into the Same River Twice:
Published by Savage River Watershed Association
Copies available through Main Street Books, Frostburg, MD
301-689-5605 or
All proceeds from book sales will be donated to SRWA.
The Singer's Temple:
reviewers’ comments
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Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination (originally published by Beacon Press, 2001)

“Hurd is a consummate naturalist, writing with the grace and precision of a Peter Matthiessen or an Annie Dillard, but she is also remarkably curious about human nature, spinning her discussion to bring in Joseph Campbell, the I Ching and Thomas Edison.” 
--Los Angeles Times

“Hurd has the sharp eye of the essayist, the naturalist’s feel for place and the poet’s for metaphor. . . . The essays—with such titles as Refugium, Hyacinth Drift, and Clearing—have deep reach.  Like all the best such works (Annie Dillard, David Quammen and, of course, Thoreau), they make you reassess the way you look at something you thought was familiar. …Hurd’s savory gumbo includes backward glances at her own childhood and forays into religion and myth, issuing in a synaesthetic series of deeply felt impressions and surprising meanders. . . . The marriage of wonder with language, of muck with metaphor, is beautifully controlled.”
--The Toronto Globe and Mail

“Delving into these wetlands, she finds in their array of strange fauna and flora an objective correlative to the place in the mind where artistic inspiration occurs: a place of blurred borders, shifting identity, and strange odors, of rot and death, of Zen peacefulness.”
--The New Yorker

“But Stirring the Mud is not just—even primarily—a natural history.  It’s about swamps as springboard for the imagination, inviting meditations on the nature of our lives.”
--The Sun

“Hurd’s poetic inquiry into the life and margins of marshy terrain takes us on a magic-filled metaphorical mystery tour of human desire.”
--The Utne Reader

“Barbara Hurd writes about people with the canny poise of Cheever, and about nature with the loving exactitude of Thoreau. And everywhere in her work is a speculative energy and elegance that make her essays a rare achievement.”
--J.D. McClatchy

“Hurd’s essays reverberate with an intimate, reverent understanding of nature, history, and art. The bog—metaphoric, historic, actual—has its large life here, in a book that is gracefully written and fully imagined.”
--Jane Brox

“Barbara Hurd’s elegant, effortless prose is a surefooted guide through the wetlands she loves: the liminal zones, the borderlands that aren’t quite earth or water.  This engaging book takes us deep into the swamp, both into the physical place and into its literary and mythic dimensions.  Language, after all, is a swamp too—a meeting place, a fertile territory of depths and of origins. Stirring the Mud is a smart, singular enchantment.”
--Mark Doty

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Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark (originally published by Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

“In this profound and beautifully written exploration of caves and caving, Barbara Hurd describes not only her initiation into the stony earth but also the full range of human depths.  Geology and spiritual discovery in this book are one, the evolution of Hurd’s knowledge of stalactites and sightless cave fish inseparable from her encounter with fear and mystery, invisibility and intimacy, Eros and grief, life and death.  Entering the Stone is a masterpiece of the interior world.”
--Jane Hirshfield

“Hurd chronicles her experiences in these dark spaces and her intertwining journeys into fear, loss, intimacy and spirituality. Along the way, she opens our eyes to the beauty and fragility of this subterranean world.”
--The Nature Conservancy

“Here was an outdoorswoman who also thinks; a naturalist who, back indoors, reads and then writes.” 
--The Sun

“Reading Entering the Stone is not unlike exploring a cave system.  The layout may be unclear. Some quarters may be confined. But then, unexpectedly, a seemingly unconnected chamber will converge with other passages and you find yourself in an expansive space and feel you’ve encountered something enlightening.”
--The New York Times Book Review

“This is not a sensationalist adventure story but rather a sometimes mystical journey of discovery into the hidden recesses of the mind.”
--Library Journal

An “exquisite meditation on caves and their peculiar power. . . .While plenty of writers have navigated this territory before, Entering the Stone seems destined to stand out among books on spelunking. There is a natural link between caves and the stalactite-covered hollows of the human heart, which Hurd plays up with elegant restraint.”

--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2008)

“There's scarcely anyone writing better about the natural world than Barbara Hurd. In her book, Walking the Wrack Line, Hurd turns her spare prose and lyrical powers of observation to shingle beaches, spider crabs, jellyfish, dead sailors and such landlocked matters as why Franz Schubert never finished his Symphony in B Minor, known as the Unfinished Symphony.”
--Alan Cheuse, NPR

“ . . . pithy and gorgeously written meditations. . . . Hurd is magnificent at translating the world into words, in witnessing some small incident on a beach—coming upon the dark impression a melted iceberg has left in the sand on an Alaskan shoreline, for example—and spiraling it out into a sustained series of questions about impermanence.”
--The Boston Globe

 “Walking the Wrack Line surprises at every turn.  A slim volume, it has the depth and breadth of far larger books.  Though the essays are brief, many are dense with provocative questions. A study of debris at high tide should, by all rights, be a grim and charmless affair.  Not so. Instead, Hurd becomes our tour guide, at once wry and curious, always hopeful.”
--Maine Sunday Telegram

“Easily braiding observation and reflection, Hurd is a clear-eyed witness to living gracefully with the wrack and ruin of our human burdens.  She is a marvelous writer.”
--Alison Hawthorne Deming

“This lyrical book with its scrupulous attention to language and the world will please poets and naturalists alike.”
--Publisher’s Weekly

“This is a beautiful book.  It is as skillfully constructed as a poem, and like a poem its meanings widen.  It is a series of fascinating, informative nature essays, but more deeply it is a series of meditations on ‘what might be rescued from near-destruction, from silence, from invisibility.”
--Ann Fisher-Wirth

“Each sentence is an exploration.  Every small thing opens into a universe seen through Hurd’s brave and curious lens.  Her hunt for minutia is subtly inspired and above all tangible, worldly, real.” 
--Craig Childs

“In this lovely collection of essays, Barbara Hurd explores the wrack line and finds strength and fragility in the wind sailors suddenly cast ashore, raw beauty in a moon snail devouring its prey, disintegration and renewal in stone and sand.  Belonging to land and sea, the wrack line is evanescent and enduring, broken and seamless.  With her insight, in its particulars, we see our own.” 
--Deborah Cramer

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The Singer’s Temple (Treadwell, NY: Bright Hill Press, 2003)

The Singer’s Temple (Treadwell, NY: Bright Hill Press, 2003).

“Early in this book, Barbara Hurd confronts the reader with the scary and fascinating proposition, a medical conjecture, that many of us are actually twins in our single bodies and oblivious of it.  In her compelling, well-crafted poems Hurd carries us through varied perspectives on this theme of self-accompaniment.  We encounter sea urchins, Dr. Jekyll, a grackle falling down a stovepipe, Monet, the cinema, Elvis, Eros, a vacuum-cleaner salesman, Doubting Thomas, Peter Pan, an egret and Gyoto monks.  We ride double on a motorcycle in India.  We are taken into a surreal dream of an anthropomorphic cave that has aggressive sexual intentions.  Hurd takes us where we never have been, which is the job of a poet, and she does it well.  Her voice is genuine and convincing, her versification is sure, and above all, her poems are interesting. Once I began, I read the book through; I was drawn from poem to poem. Altogether, this is a splendid collection.  Read it—you will be more than doubly pleased.
--Richard Frost, Awards Judge, Bright Hill Poetry Prize

“Hurd’s seamless tone, her luminous eloquence are so generous, so wise that we are enriched and appeased by them—and grateful for this intelligent, consoling, enlightened book.”
--Laure-Anne Bosselaar

“When unpredictability arrives paired with inevitability, as is true in poem after poem of The Singer’s Temple, one of the great paradoxes of art stands before us.  When that paradox comes clothed in language both unpretentious and rich, we feel exhilarated, restored, elegantly haunted.  You have to give your heart and mind over to this collection of Barbara Hurd’s, but then doesn’t the best work always insist on that extraction?”
--Gray Jacobik

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