Barbara Hurd and "The Ear Is a Lonely Hunter"

June 14, 2019
Who doesn’t relish describing what she sees? Whether sketching a character, depicting a landscape, or writing poetry known as ekphrastic, creative writers lean heavily on sight as a conduit for rendering the world. In a fascinating departure, environmental writer Barbara Hurd has written a book about sound. Near her home in the mountains of western Maryland, she often visited the Savage River with her young granddaughter and found a rich new vein of inquiry there in what they heard. As Sierra magazine said of Hurd’s latest work, Listening to the Savage (2016):
Hurd makes a habit of listening for quieter signals of disruption among plants and wildlife―the complexities of atonal birdsong, for instance, or the sense of foreboding that arises when a flock of geese, soaring overhead, suddenly plunges to water. … Her latest essay collection calls on readers, too, to engage in deep, habitual listening, ‘to turn… the ear, that lonely hunter, and put it closer to the ground.’
The author of eight works of nonfiction, Barbara Hurd teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and for one weekend this September she’ll teach in Kentucky. Here is how she describes her upcoming workshop:
At its best, writing about the natural world is an increasingly urgent challenge that means investigating otherness, the evolving nature of communities, the importance of cross-pollination, and “edge species.” In this generative workshop, we will explore the pleasures and perils of writing essays about the natural world. Using Rachel Carson as a model and inspiration, we will 1) examine the language and habits of attention/inattention that often keep us from seeing our environments more clearly, 2) practice techniques to foster more precise observations, 3) discuss ways of transforming raw field notes into essays, and 4) workshop short drafts we generate in class.
Slots are still available in Barbara’s and most other workshops in our 40th anniversary conference, and you can register for them here.


Barbara Hurd
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