Threshold (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry)
Jennifer Richter presents a series of poems that explore the many facets of the term "threshold." Throughout the collection, the narrator experiences several acts of threshing, or separating—from birth and the small yet profound distances that part a mother and child, to the separation caused by illness and its toll on relationships. At the same time, she is progressively gathering, piecing together the remnants of her life, collecting her children into her arms, and welcoming a future without pain. Pain is often present in these poems, as the narrator frequently confronts her own threshold for enduring a ravaging illness. Her harrowing struggle through recovery is chronicled by a poem at the end of each section, tracing her powerful journey from deep suffering to a fragile yet steadfast sense of hope.
These gripping lyric and prose poems explore duality in its many forms: the private, contemplative world versus a world of action; the mirror sides of health and sickness; the warmth of a June sun and the deep, long nights of winter; mother and child; collecting and letting go. From the comfort of a morning bed at home to the desperate streets of Hanoi, Threshold is a searing portrait of healing, the courage it takes to bridge the gulfs that divide, and the wonder of the ties that bind.
What Is My Body Without You?
My son’s pajamas unsnapped
on the floor: small husk
of his body relaxing on its back,
legs and sleeves still filled
with his rush. This part of him
hasn’t outgrown my arms
and sometimes lets me lift
him up our steep stairs,
carry him to bed and pull
his shade against the gray
thin winter sky like milk
my daughter wakes up wanting.
In the last days of lifting her
to my breast, I fill her less
than the air already gone
from my son’s flat shape.
Twice like that I have lain back,
the doctor opening me
along the same clean seam.
Each time I was watching:
with a few tugs the child
was out, naked and heading
toward other hands, each child
cut loose before I knew it.
Praise For Threshold (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry)…
“Threshold sparkles with a shaped brilliance. Each poem is intensely believable because there isn’t a decorous flare of language here. To cross the threshold is to (pro)claim the metaphysical that resides in the everyday.”—Yusef Komunyakaa, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and author of Warhorses: Poems
“Jennifer Richter’s tender, sorrowful poems delve deep into the body—celebrating the power of motherhood as they lament the body in pain, the body hurt. Threshold is a testament to Richter’s strength as a skilled and courageous poet determined to tell it in luminous verse, no matter what.”—Dorianne Laux, author of Facts About the Moon
“These are bravely revealing poems whose art, attention to detail, and high regard for irony allow them to rise above being simply a record of one’s health problems and instead are shockingly illustrative of the journey that illness can become. In the end the journey of pain becomes a journey of self-knowledge and widening compassion.”—Bruce Weigl, author of Declension in the Village of Chung Luong
“Threshold weaves domestic details—children, neighbors, ordinary moments—into an extraordinary account of pain and survival. But what appears to be, at first, a fractured narrative of turmoil, heals in the craft of these poems, into an account of a mind growing in and through language.”—Eavan Boland, author of Domestic Violence: Poems
Southern Illinois University Press, 9780809329656, 88pp.
Publication Date: April 30, 2010
About the Author
Jennifer Richter was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship in Poetry by Stanford University, where she taught in the Creative Writing Program for four years. Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, Crab Orchard Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Open City, and in the anthology A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-five Years of Women’s Poetry. She currently teaches poetry in elementary schools and lives in Oregon with her children and her husband.