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In these nine evocative essays, Barbara Hurd explores the seductive allure of bogs, swamps, and wetlands. Hurd's forays into the land of carnivorous plants, swamp gas, and bog men provide fertile ground for rich thoughts about mythology, literature, Eastern spirituality, and human longing. In her observations of these muddy environments, she finds ample metaphor for human creativity, imagination, and fear.


“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