#bookreview: Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude

Click on book cover to purchase from Amazon.

My Review

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.

“Echo of the Earth”

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!

205 thoughts on “#bookreview: Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude

  1. As always Liz, a comprehensive review! Your analysis of Miriam’s poetry as mature and contemplative is, I think is spot on, having read them myself.
    I also enjoy that you add the author’s own words and a bit of their life journey. An rnriching review. Thank you!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Beautifully covered, Liz. Miriam very kindly had a copy of her poetry book sent to me, which I yet have the pleasure of reading. (Trouble with Kindle), It’s OK now, so I’ll get down to reading it during the next few days. That pleasure is yet to come! xx

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Annette! Liz mentioned she wrote this review with her experience as a student and a writing teacher. I remember reading my daughter’s book reviews as a student. The reviews must be supported by the elements in the books.

      It’s my honor Liz did a thorough and excellent job reviewing my poetry collection.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Terrific post, Liz, about Miriam’s impressive poetry! I loved the “Rowing a Boat” poem — enjoying it both literally and as a heartwarming metaphor for a shared life — and you recited it beautifully.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I’m repeating others in saying what a wonderful post this is, Liz. First, the review itself of Miriam’s book, and then your beautiful reading/video. Congratulations to Miriam on her book and on the review!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Liz and Miriam – you make a dynamic duo or rather a beautiful duet. I have “Songs of Heartstrings: Poems and Gratitude and Beatitude” close by to read as part of my morning meditation. A wonderful recitation, Liz. You have a wonderful way of exploring poetry. I have learned so much from our friendship.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you very much, Rebecca. It’s wonderful to have a poet review my poetry. I know Liz loves to get inspiration from mountains and the seaside. I do feel like Liz and I have a similar appreciation of nature.

      You love poetry and have great insight into nature and life itself, Rebecca. I enjoyed very much our conversation for your podcast. Thank you for having me.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Hi Liz, this is a lovely review of Miriam’s book of poetry which I also enjoyed. Your recital of her poem is beautiful and I always like reading the inspiration for poetry. I got caught in a wave when I was young and I remember being rolled over and over in the sandy water and not being able to come up. I was frightened and can relate to Miriam’s anxiety.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Robbie. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. My fear of water incident was jumping off a diving board when I was nine or ten. It felt like my entire head had filled with water through my nose. The lifeguard fished me out of the pool, thankfully.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It must be a terrible feeling of being rolled over and over in the water, Robbie. I can’t get over the fear of being drowned. My daughter thought I didn’t know how to swim and tried to teach me. I still swim in the pool. Luckily, the pools here don’t have a slippery tiled bottom. Thank you very much for your review of my poetry.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Liz, your review so captures the beauty, range, and power of Ms. Hurdle’s poetry. As usual, you apprehend fully the intentions of the writer. This review makes one want to read these life-affirming poems. continue…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Valerie! My eyes clued on the TV news that day. It was 3:00 pm, and the street lights in the nearby city were on and looked like nighttime because of the ash.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I don’t typically read poetry much, but I remember reading and enjoying Miriam’s diverse collection in early 2020. As many others already know, she is also a skilled photographer.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Reblogged this on The Showers of Blessings and commented:
    I’m so thrilled that Liz Gauffreau, the poet, features me on her blog today. She did a fabulous and insightful review of my poetry collection, Songs of Heartstrings. She highlighted two of my poems and read one. Please head over to enjoy. While you’re there, check out her publications.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Liz reviewed it as a student for her lit class, she got an A++. If she reviewed it as a writing teacher, I passed the exam! 🙂 🙂 I always learn something from Liz’s reviews. Thank you so much for your review of my poetry also, Diana! I really appreciated that. I think your hiking vacation is coming up. Have a wonderful time!

      Liked by 3 people

  10. This is a great review of a wonderful collection of poetry. I have read Miriam’s poems and I enjoyed them very much. I was living in Seattle when Mt. St. Helen’s erupted. I especially like “Echo of the Earth” .

    Liked by 3 people

        1. So we can call each other neighbor. I like that. There’s a funny story I haven’t told a soul. My husband lived a few blocks from me in Chino Hills when I lived there with my ex. He said he had seen me in a grocery store before we met. I believed him because it was a new city with no zip code yet. I probably was the only Chinese living in that area. He and I met 10 years later! Anyways, my ex died of brain tumor.

          Liked by 2 people

  11. My dad visited Portland a month after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and while there called me to describe the ash coating and devastation he saw remaining in the area. A decade later, I visited Portland as well and purchased earrings marketed as “Mount St. Helens emeralds”: beautiful clear green stones forged by the lava and debris. To this day, they remain my favorite earrings, always a reminder of beauty from ashes.

    And now my youngest daughter has lived in Portland for several years. When we visited her last month, the sky was a crystal blue; we stood on a hill and took photos of the snow-covered flattened dome of Mount St. Helens, a poignant backdrop for the city.

    In these days when nature is threatened as never before in human history, Miriam’s poetic voice is a necessary reminder of beauty from ashes—and of how much the Earth needs us all to speak for it, in our own ways.

    Thank you, Liz, for sharing such a powerful advocate with us.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wonderful! And another coincidence. Two days ago I visited a local butterfly house, containing hundreds of native butterflies. It seems that Miriam speaks my language.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It’s wonderful to hear you’re interested in butterflies, Ranee! I visit butterfly sanctuaries wherever there’s one when we travel. The last one we visited was in Santa Barbara when we went there for a 5-day trip.

          Liked by 2 people

  12. I took a tour of Mount St. Helen 10 years after the eruption also, Ranee. Most of the debris was still there. When we went back in 2016, I went to the tour center and read many notes and letters from people who witnessed the eruption.
    Your Mount St. Helens emeralds earrings are precious. They remind us of the power and life of nature. Thank you so much for sharing your dad’s witness and your experience with us. I appreciate that.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Liz, you have such a mellow voice for reading Miriam’s affective poetry. I am familiar with her prose, especially, Tina, Lost in a Crowd. Thanks for introducing me to another genre. Thanks for all this!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s lovely to hear that you read Tina Lost in a Crowd, Marian. I love writing different genres on my blog. I haven’t written a fictional novel yet. It may come one day. My soon to be published is a memoir. Thank you for your lovely comment.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with you, Mark! It’s my honor to have a review of my book from her. Thank you very much for your affirming comment. It’s lovely that you’ll be grabbing a copy. Let me know what you think! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Thanks for sharing another great review, Liz. Miriam’s book is famous, and for me also like the Rocky Mountains of poetry. I am climbing forward step by step, always with a rest. 😉 Oh, what would i give for a boat, but for here a lake need to be included in the package. Lol Best wishes, Michael
    P.S.: The day will come, when i am digging my own pool in our yard. :-))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re so funny, Michael. Digging your own pool in your yard. You never know. If you dig a little bit each day, before long, you’d have a pool for swimming and boating. Thank you for reading my poetry book. I hope you’ll find some poems you like. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You will not believe, but in the past i really had dug the yard more than two meters deep. But as we are in need to use the garages, i had to fill the hole back up. Lol Thanks for writing this wonderful poetry book, Miriam. I love it, and just have to learn how to express this for a review. Best wishes, Michael

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh wow, Michael. I’m glad you’ve tried. I know at least one family who filled the pool after the children are grown up. They didn’t want to maintain the pool.
          Then you for reading my poetry book. I appreciate your interest. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

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