Listening to the Savage
River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies

Barbara Hurd

A noted nature writer asks us to reengage with the natural world through sound


“As with few other nature writers—a small handful of the singing poets, like Mary Oliver and W. S. Merwin—one enters the brilliant desert, blue mountain, what-have-you—with verve and hunger, when Barbara Hurd is the guide.”
—Rick Bass

“Barbara Hurd stalks the wisdom that comes from deep and attentive listening. Whether she’s engaging in rousing conversation with Thoreau or working to hear past the commonplace definition of musical harmony and into complex registers of perception, her drive is always to ‘stitch bits of evidence together into some narrative whole that might enlarge the picture, make the drama more true.’ Part lyrical field guide, part writer’s journal, these generous, meditative essays court ‘finer gradations, clearer distinctions, and better discernment.’”
—Lia Purpura, author of Rough Likeness

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Barbara Hurd’s Listening to the Savage weaves rich explorations of science, history, mythology, literature, and music. The listening of the book delineates and champions a kind of attentiveness to what is not easily heard and is written in language that is as precise as it is poetic, providing original ways of engagement in the natural world.

As in Hurd’s other books, the previously unknown or the barely known become less mysterious but still retain the quality of mystery. The book presumes that nature is a mix of the chaotic and the wondrous. It addresses worry and advocacy—worry about our carelessness that can destroy the balance of that mix and a cry for us to pay more attention to humanity’s relationship to natural history.

Listen, be alert, it says without hectoring. Rivers, ferns, streams, birds all have a life that is delicate and worth preserving. Barbara Hurd is one of our finest environmental writers, and this book will please the choir and persuade those on the ambivalent edge.

A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book

Page count: 144 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $24.95

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List price: $18.95

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List price: $24.95
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Barbara Hurd is the author of Stirring the Mud, Entering the Stone, Walking the Wrack Line, and a collection of poetry, The Singer’s Temple. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, the Yale Review, the Georgia Review, Orion, and Audubon. She is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, winner of the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award, five Pushcart Prizes, five Maryland State Arts Council Awards, and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the Vermont College of Fine Art.