Frostburg State University English professor Dr. Barbara Hurd has been awarded a second year of the Wilson H. Elkins Professorship from the University System of Maryland, which will allow her time to work on the third book in her series of environmental essays.
Hurd received critical acclaim for her first book of essays, Stirring the Mud: Swamps, Bogs and Human Imagination, which was named one of The Los Angeles Times' Best Books of 2001 and was the inspiration for "Stirrings," a multi-disciplinary work created at FSU this spring that joined literature, music, dance and the environment.
The first $80,000 Elkins Professorship allowed Hurd more time to complete the research, writing and revision of her second collection of essays, Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark. The second $75,000 award will allow her to research and write essays for her third collection, tentatively titled The Wrack Line, named for the line of debris left on a beach after the tide goes out.
"For most writers, the most precious gift is the gift of time, which is what the Elkins Professorship provides me. To have it renewed means that I can keep this writing momentum going," Hurd said.
"The Professorship also gave me the opportunity to spend some time in coastal environments during this past spring semester, collecting notes for my next book."
As a requirement of the Elkins award, Hurd will present three lectures at FSU during the coming year. The first is scheduled for Sept. 9.
Entering the Stone will be published by Houghton Mifflin Co. in August. Poet Jane Hirshfield wrote, "In this profound and beautifully written exploration of caves and caving, Barbara Hurd describes not only her initiation into the stony earth but also the full range of human depths. Geology and spiritual discovery in this book are one, the evolution of Hurd's knowledge of stalactites and sightless cave fish inseparable from her encounter with fear and mystery, invisibility and intimacy, eros and grief, life and death. Entering the Stone is a masterpiece of the interior world."
During the past year, Hurd also won the Bright Hill Press Poetry Prize, which includes publication of a book of her poetry. That book, The Singer's Temple, is also due out in August. Hurd's essays and poems have appeared in numerous journals and collections, including Best American Essays 1999, and Best American Essays 2001. She is the recipient of the 2002 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction. Hurd has previously published a collection of poems, titled Objects in this Mirror.
She has worked at Frostburg State since 1977 and has been a faculty member in the Department of English since 1986, where she holds the rank of professor. She specializes in teaching creative writing and literature of the environment.
The Wilson H. Elkins Professorship was established in 1978 as the first permanently endowed, university-wide professorship at the University of Maryland. The professorship is named in honor of Dr. Wilson H. Elkins, a former Rhodes scholar who led the University of Maryland to new levels of distinction as its president from 1954 to 1978. Under Elkins' leadership, the university grew notably in size, scope, and standing.
When the new University System of Maryland began in 1988, Elkins agreed that his professorship should extend to the entire USM family, of which FSU is a member.