Barbara Hurd, 1949 -
(The following narrative on Barbara Hurd was revised/updated in Spring 2014 at the request of the Maryland Women's Heritage Center as part of an upcoming Fall 2014 exhibit on Women in the Arts.)
Barbara Hurd is an internationally-recognized essayist whose work investigates natural and interior landscapes and links those observations to myth, psychology, literature, and science. Her career reflects her increasing commitment to seeing and hearing the places where we live—neighborhoods, communities, natural surroundings--with precision and imagination.
After graduation from the College of William and Mary, Barbara Hurd worked a variety of jobs—assembly line worker, clerical assistant, fast food server--before moving to Western Maryland in the early 1970’s where she taught 7th and 8th grade English in Westernport, MD. After completing graduate work at the University of Maryland, she took a faculty position at Frostburg State University, from which she retired in 2010. Throughout her long teaching career, Dr. Hurd received numerous high merit awards for teaching and professional achievement and was the first person at FSU to be honored with the Elkins Professorship. She continues to teach in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.
But it is through her writing that her reach has extended beyond the rural Western Maryland community where she has lived for more than forty years. As one critic noted, Barbara Hurd knows “how to draw connections in an increasingly complex world while defying easy synthesis; how to appreciate the endangered natural world without indulging in sentimentality or disdaining human culture ... If humanism means the triumph of human values and desires over the nonhuman, then Hurd is no humanist. But if humanism means giving as much attention as is humanly possible to the task of living fully on the earth, Hurd is a humanist of the first order.”
She is the author of two prize-winning poetry books and three award-winning essay collections: Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination (a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001); Entering the Stone (a Library Journal Best Natural History Book of the Year), and Walking the Wrack Line (Honorable Mention from the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). Her next book, Putting an Ear to the Ground, is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press and includes an essay entitled “Keys” that was short-listed for the prestigious Hazlitt Prize from Notting Hill Editions in London.
Her work has also earned her a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, inclusion in Best American Essays, the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award, five Maryland State Arts Council Awards, the Towson Prize for Literature, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her writings have also appeared in such other publications as the Yale Review, Audubon, Nimrod, Orion, and Sierra.
While Hurd has given readings, conducted workshops, and published her work nationally and internationally, she continues her commitment to local environmental causes. Her most recent work, Stepping into the Same River Twice, is a collaborative book produced with painter Patricia Hilton as a fundraiser for the Savage River Watershed Association in Garrett County, MD.
In April 2015 Barbara Hurd was selected as a 2015 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. In June 2015 she was also recognized by the Maryland Women's Heritage Center for inclusion within its state-wide "Women in the Arts" exhibit.
Text - Barbara Hurd and Albert Feldstein, photograph by Jeannine
Photograph used with permission of Houghton Mifflin and Jeannine
Allegany County (Md.)--Biography; Allegany County (Md.)--Women.
Allegany County, (Md.)