Hurd, Barbara 1949-
HURD, Barbara 1949-
PERSONAL: Born 1949, in Detroit, MI. Education: College of William and Mary, 1971; University of Maryland, 1984.
ADDRESSES: Office—Dunle Hall 132A, Frostburg State University, 101 Braddock Road, Frostburg, MD 21532. Agent—Beacon Press, 25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and educator. Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD, 1985—, professor of creative writing, poetry, environmental literature and composition.
AWARDS, HONORS: Finalist, Annie Dillard Award for nonfiction, 2001.
Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2001.
Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling through the Dark, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: The Finzel and Cranesville swamps in Maryland provided Barbara Hurd with a rich departure point for journeys into mythology, literature, and spirituality in Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination. Hurd sees this often unexplored and misunderstood terrain as a place to feed the human spirit and imagination, a landscape that reminds us "what hungers in us is so large. What we feed it is so small."
Reviewers of Stirring the Mud have compared Hurd to the great American nature writers of the past and present. She "is a consummate naturalist, writing with the grace and precision of a Peter Matthiessen or an Annie Dillard," wrote a contributor to the Los Angeles Times, "but she is also remarkably curious about human nature, spinning her discussion to bring in Joseph Campbell, the I Ching and Thomas Edison." Knitting together such diverse subjects as Buddhist philosophy, mythology, and her own childhood, noted Publishers Weekly, "Hurd evokes the landscape through a series of unexpected and sometimes fascinating physical and mental wanderings."
Like Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the 1947 classic The Rivers of Grass, Hurd loves the stories of the eccentric characters who are drawn to swamps, and like Thoreau himself, has a flair for conveying her chosen patch of earth. Reflecting on the prevalence of animal-like plants in a swamp, for instance, Hurd infers that "there's a camaraderie here, a tolerance for hybrids and mongrels, a kinship among the patrons of an all-night, half-sunken bar for cross-dressers."
"It's such a sensual, gorgeous landscape," the author said in an interview with the online edition of the Washington Post. "I think a swamp is one of the most erotic landscapes because in order to enjoy it, you really have to pay attention. That's what a swamp asks—that you pay attention to it."
Maureen Delaney-Lehaman wrote in Library Journal, "Much of this short book is filled with Hurd's wanderings, both literally and figuratively, through the Finzel swamp in the Maryland Appalachians. She muses on the ambiguity of life in the swamp, a place where trees with needles shed them in autumn and plants eat insects. She speculates on what lurks beneath the mud and ponders the space between life and death. Hurd's prose is sprinkled with delightful images, such as skunk cabbages she imagines as tiny Yodas and Indian pipes as whimpled nuns in prayer."
A contributor to Acorn Naturalist online observed, "Hurd's new book steeps the reader in the strange beauty of swamps and bogs—a landscape where the hoods of skunk cabbages poke through the mud, where hundreds of amphibians perform nocturnal concerts while rare bog turtles forage about. A stirring account by a contemporary literary master, reminiscent of the exacting yet poetic style of Thoreau. A blend of nature, lore and poetic philosophy that replicates the feelings one gets when exploring these rich environments that bridge land and water."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, November 15, 2000, Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, review of Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination, p. 93.
Los Angeles Times, February, 2001.
Publishers Weekly, January 22, 2001, review of Stirring the Mud, p. 314.
Acorn Naturalist,http://www.acornnaturalists.com/ (August 22, 2001), review of Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination.
Beacon Press Online,http://www.beacon.org/ (August 22, 2001).
Washington Post.com,http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (August 22, 2001), Peter Carlson, "Bogged up in Mud" (interview with Barbara Hurd).