Reading Miriam Hurdle’s poetry collection, Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude, I was immediately struck by the poems’ depth and breadth of reflection. The maturity of these contemplative poems brought to mind educational reformer John Dewey’s definition of reflective thinking as a meaning-making process by which individuals learn and society advances. This meaning-making process is very much in evidence throughout the collection–as is Hurdle’s strong religious faith.
The collection is organized into thematic sections, like suites of music. Taken together, they form the rich symphony of a life well-lived, including the inevitable discordant notes.
Hurdle employs of a range of forms in the collection, including free verse of varying lengths, acrostic, and prose poem, thereby demonstrating her sensitivity to the relationship between form and content. She chooses the form of poetic expression that will best communicate to readers what is in her heart.
Along the same lines is her use of repetition and rhyme. The inclusion of her own photography and artwork further strengthens the bond between form and content.
The two standouts of the collection for me are the opening poem, “Echo of the Earth,” and the closing poem, “Life’s Symphony.” Both of these poems rely on metaphor for their meaning: nature and music respectively.
Endure the suffering as
stones engraved as carvings.
Remember kindness as
the dried field once flooded with rain. (“Echo of the Earth”)
Pianissimo whispers to your ears
the faintest sob,
breathes the darkest secret
only to you. (“Life’s Symphony”)
Readers who are looking for affirmation of life’s blessings during troubled times–or celebration of life’s blessings during happy times–are sure to enjoy and appreciate Heartstrings: Songs of Gratitude and Beatitude.
The Poet’s Inspiration
I’m drawn to nature, whether it’s high on a mountain, far in a wilderness, or wide in a vast ocean. I’m in awe of the majestic power, especially the life in nature. It seems like nothing beats nature, no matter how devastating the destruction is. Life survives. When I’m out and about near and far, the images of sceneries and the emotions stay fresh in my memory for a long time. They brew in my mind. I write better when I’m alone. When I have a quiet moment, I draw out the memories and write my poems.
I love gardening. My garden is my sanctuary. With the same admiration for nature, I appreciate the trees and plants and flowers going through the seasons of death and rebirth. I do the gardening alone, and the poems come to my mind there and then. Usually, the entire poem comes to me, and I can go back to the house to write it down.
I would like to talk about the inspiration in two of my poems.
Mount St. Helens in Washington state was erupted on May 18, 1980. I was a student at Seattle Pacific University. The 5.1 magnitude earthquake caused a lateral eruption that reduced St. Helens’ height by about 1,300 feet and left a crater 1 to 2 miles wide and 0.5 miles deep. It was a major eruption among the 48 states since 1915. The ash drifted over many states and could be seen as far as Chicago.
My family and I went back to visit on September 10, 2016. The mud and debris still filled the river, and the crater was still very much alive. It seemed like nothing would survive. I was in awe to see miles of forests have come back, richer and different from before. There were many beautiful wildflowers. Life overcomes! The reflection on Mount St. Helens and the return of vegetation inspired me to write the poem “Echo of the Earth.”
“Rowing a Boat”
I love swimming. Swimming in the ocean and in a pool was my regular activity when I was in Hong Kong. When life got busy and I had no time to go to the beaches, I swam in the public pool most of the time. One pool had tiled walls and tiled bottom. One time when I finished swimming and went to the shallow section ready to get out, unexpectedly, I slipped and sank. The image of sinking to the bottom and frantically moving my arms up and down to stabilize my body still stays with me. I’m afraid of swimming in the ocean. I still swim in the pool though.
When my husband and I went to Maui, Hawaii for our honeymoon, we did many water activities, including snorkeling, jet skiing, and kayaking. But my husband was with me all the time, not knowing I was afraid of swimming in the ocean. I felt safe when he was with me doing all the water sports.
Doing the water sports with Lynton and the safe feeling inspired me to write the poem “Rowing a Boat.”
Off for Adventure!