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Jennifer Richter


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
88 pages, 6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

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.


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.


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