Join us for a reading by three luminous literary talents. Bonnie Jo Campbell’s story collection American Salvage was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. She is the author of the novel Q Road and the story collection Women & Other Animals and also teaches writing. Jennifer Richter’s book, Thresholds, was chosen by poet Natasha Tretheway as the winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, and CALYX. In 2011, she’ll be a visiting writer at Oregon State University. Diane Seuss’s second collection of poems, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open was the winner of the Jupiter Prize for Poetry from the University of Massachusetts Press. She has published widely and is writer in residence at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.
Diane Seuss's poems grow out of the fertile soil of southwest Michigan, bursting any and all stereotypes of the Midwest and turning loose characters worthy of Faulkner in their obsession, their suffering, their dramas of love and sex and death. The first section of this collection pays homage to the poet's roots in a place where the world hands you nothing and promises less, so you are left to invent yourself or disappear. From there these poems both recount and embody repeated acts of defiant self-creation in the face of despair, loss, and shame, and always in the shadow of annihilation. With darkly raucous humor and wrenching pathos, Seuss burrows furiously into liminal places of no dimension--state lines, lakes' edges, the space "between the m and the e in the word amen." From what she calls "this place in-between" come profane prayers in which "the sound of hope and the sound of suffering" are revealed to be "the same music played on the same instrument." Midway through this book, a man tells the speaker that beauty is that which has not been touched. This collection is a righteous and fierce counterargument: in the world of this imagination, beauty spills from that which has been crushed, torn, and harrowed. "We receive beauty," Seuss writes, "as a nail receives/the hammer blow." This is the poetry that comes only after the white dress has been blown open--the poetry of necessity, where a wild imagination is the only hope.
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.
Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction; finalist for the
2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction. "These short stories
approach their subjects from an array of perspectives, but what they
share is freshness, surprise, and a compulsion to plumb some absolute
extremes of American existence."-National Book Award citation