Maggie Smith reads Threshold
We spoke with Maggie Smith about her poem threshold. I was thinking about big life changes and how sometimes they're not ought visible to people on the outside but that doesn't mean that the change wasn't happening leading up to that before writing the poem Smith Remembered Thinking about walking through a field and imagining a series of invisible arches and feeling like I was walking through a space that looks completely open like nothing as far as the I can see but imagining that I'm entering and then leaving behind things with every step that I took through this tall grass and that was really where the poem began was with that that image. Here's Maggie Smith reading threshold. You Want Adore. You can be on both sides of at once you want to be on both sides here and there now and then together and what did we call the life. We would wish back the old life the before alone but any open space may be a threshold an an arch of entering and leaving crossing field wading through nothing but Timothy Grass. Imagine yourself passing from and into passing through doorway after doorway after after doorway. This is sort of for tinnitus poem because I think people imagine a lot about going through doors or being on the threshold of something but for some reason that this poem left me realizing that like you're never done being on the threshold. Rush Holt or going through it. There's always another another door somewhere. Another way to both sides of something any. He's sort of almost drift through these experiences. And the way that you drift through or across a field or wade through something. It's just an expanse. I don't know to me. This was sort of an eerie. I mean a pleasantly eerie experience. But that insight that you know I know the goal is sort of always infinitely ahead of where you find yourself is sort of a cycle for me. The experience of looking in the mirror in the mirror in the mirror. This poem sort of keeps multiplying itself as an image. I liked that reading. It's so much more optimistic than the one I did. I feel as if there's something hopeful all in what you're saying don the idea that the threshold is always opening and I I like that as an interpretation of this poem and I I think you WanNa keep that one because to me. This was more about the kind of in escape ability of remorse. You know the idea of wanting to be on both sides at once WanNa be on both sides of here and there now and then together on. What did we call the life? We would wish back the old life before alone You know the impossibility of living. All the lives that you could live or could have lived and the sense of loss or remorse about the choices. You did make that one did make and yet the again the kind of inescapable that the inevitability of that whatever life we live involves an exclusion of some other life that we could have lived if we had done on things differently or made different choices or didn't leave a certain situation or didn't move away or it stayed with the partner or left the partner or whatever so the idea of there's almost this virtual virtual life the could have been life the almost swished back life and yet the impossibility of having it and the impossibility of fully wanting it to kind of maybe depends on on what you think lies ahead because I I don't know if this is meant to be in the poem the thing on Emily Dickinson's tombstone. That's it's called back on that to me is. Is You know pertinent. Whether she the poet meant to be or not because it is that question of it's like if you are called back where you call back you call back from what happens there in. What does it even mean to look back or or be pulled back in that way or to go to some unimaginable? well and also yates horseman. Pass by passing through Doorway after doorway after doorway boy this has become a very elegiac poem just in the last few seconds. Yeah I like to how there's a doorway within within this poem to it feels like we go into an unknown area with parenthetical there in the middle of the poem and it's a sort of threshold that I think as readers. We don't quite understand. It's kind of a question that we can't answer and so that made me think about you. Know how questions themselves are sort of thresholds that they allow you to be on the achieve something without having answered it yet and so that allows you that sort of both sides at once feeling like imagining which track you're going to take and I thought that was a really beautiful aspect of this poem because we can often think of thresholds as physical or temporal experiences but this poem really focuses. This is on them as mental experiences and relational experiences. So the idea that there's a choice that we can think about our thresholds differently instead of sort of the ones is that are imposed upon us by architecture by events. Like birthday or graduation the ones that end up feeling kind of false. Because we're like wow. I feel exactly the same on this day as I did the day before. And in retrospect it's a totally different threshold that you didn't see coming that really affected your life which is what that parenthetical sort of implied and to me. What did we call the life we could wish back? It's so far gone that we can't even remember what that threshold was or how it felt to crossover it. I guess I felt both like there was a regretful element here but also a sort of empowering moment to decide where those doors are to think about them in the present instead always in the past. Yeah and it's great to the way the poem enacts. These thresholds with there are couplets. It's in dented couplets. And so there's a lot of threshold nece in the poem with these couple breaks. There's a lot of arenas in the palm home you can almost feel you know the breeze of the door opening and shutting as you move through this poem and interact with it on the page and and sometimes some of some of the questions are suspended at the end of one of the couplets going into the next one and so that not acting out of that. Very question of sort of expectation suspense not knowing is really done beautifully by the form warm and the format of the poem as well. I was thinking about this image of the Timothy Grass as the only like really physical aspect or like detailed aspect of this poem. So much of it is kind of abstract. And that brought me back to the term threshold to as a sort of based on the word thresh you know that sort of separating a seed from the plant the idea that a threshold is an area where we'd pull apart those seats where we figure out where the next planting is coming from. I really liked that sort of subtle tie in there that I think about my first few readings of the poem but I think is is a nice detail about the field and the threshold itself.