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Cover for Threshold (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry)

Threshold (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry)

Jennifer Richter


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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’s first book, Threshold, was chosen by former U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey as a winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, she has received an Oregon Literary Fellowship and currently teaches in Oregon State University’s MFA program.