Threshold Delivery takes a lyrical look at how we approach the death of our loved ones - and how we confront the various thresholds in our lives. These poems guide the reader through ritual, tradition, and mystical interpretations of how and why we mourn, and how we conduct our lives after knowing grief. Though referencing Jewish tradition, these poems ask the reader to confront their own strategies and observance. They call upon pathos, personal history and humor, confronting the everyday with no shortage of joy, irony, and bafflement. Poems range from short personal meditations and anecdotal narratives to associative flights of imagination and winding explorations, replete with historical oddities and popular culture. Densely musical and voice driven, poems take the reader on journeys through personal and family history, mapping the movement of the heart and mind through life's most challenging moments. A series of poems, on the surface about Mah Jongg, look at interweaving cultural histories and how the social world affects our behavior, while asking us to consider what we inherit, what we bring with, and what we pass down, as we "draw and discard."
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About the Author
I read Patty Seyburn's Threshold Delivery in one sitting with both admiration and envy. I kept looking for a lame, even a mediocre poem, but (alas) (I mean thankfully!) found none. This is intimidating for fellow poets but absolutely fantastic for readers. Rather magically, Seyburn charts a poetic landscape that maps memory, the voices of her children, philosophical inquiry, the Talmud, and the persistent presence of death. Oh, and Mah Jongg. I remain in awe of her wit, both wry and sly as well as her sense of craft. Realistic yet revelatory, lyric yet lapidary, dark yet delightful, in the Charleston that is this life, I'd be happy to be passed Threshold Delivery in every hand. It is a remarkable book.
In Threshold Delivery, Patty Seyburn's wit is gorgeously, ruthlessly inventive--death-harrowed and hope-shaded; it is deployed not for its own sake, but in the service of a moment when mortal truths break a poem, and us, wide open. "Shouldn't we be able to take / one story with us? Not even / a pleasant one--just to know / who you were, where you stood? / If you never had a foyer, / you'd imagine it / more grand than it was: really, it was just a threshold, a place / to arrive, pause, abandon." Seyburn writes against abandon. Her riveting attention fixes us here, in the fleeting world.
Throughout Threshold Delivery, Seyburn writes honestly, at times comically, about her complex relationship with her late mother, seeking, along the way, a family lineage that is not, finally, traceable, lamenting that loss, too. These strong poems are informed as much by the specifics of a mother's and daughter's life-"what is memory without specifics"--as they are by the literary tradition out of which the poems arise and Jewish culture, practice, and thought, on whose wisdom and lore the poems draw as they try to make sense of what comes after life.