A national bestseller, Threshold was named a 2011 Oregon Book Award Finalist by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky
Chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey as winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, Threshold was published by Southern Illinois University Press in April 2010
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.
“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
“Throughout this lovely book, the music of survival and transcendence undergirds a song of the body in its changes.”
—Natasha Trethewey, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
“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. Finally, this is what makes Threshold such an exceptional collection.”
“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.”
“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.”