cover image ENTERING THE STONE: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark

ENTERING THE STONE: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark

Barbara Hurd, . . Houghton Mifflin, $23 (170pp) ISBN 978-0-618-19138-3

In this follow-up to Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs and Human Imagination, poet and essayist Hurd turns from the water to go underground, further exploring her fascination with the way physical landscapes can mirror personal, spiritual or psychological landscapes. Readers who enjoyed her previous book will relish the prose in this one, but newcomers may find Hurd's nuanced style an acquired taste. Hurd uses the sport of caving Maryland's Devil's Hole cave and Oregon's Siskiyous Mountains—to name only a few of her many cave-related subjects—as the launching point for observations about the ways we "use landscape and the people in our lives to orient ourselves." Hurd often weaves resonant parallels between what she sees in the nature of caves and her own life, such as her moving recollections of her father and of a friend dying of cancer. Outside of an extended look at the clandestine development of Arizona's Kartchner Caverns, Hurd doesn't really provide much detail about caving itself, eschewing these hard details for more ruminative ones. A great chapter on "The Twilight Zone" beautifully uses the area of a cave between the entrance and the dark as a metaphor for her own "uncertainty about degrees of loss." (Aug.)