Threshold Reviews

Marilyn Bowering’s collection, Threshold, explores the voice and power of women poets and of poetry, even across countries and centuries….After having, quite literally, stumbled upon the life and burial ground of the exiled Hebridean poet Mairi nighean Alasdair Ruiadh (Mary MacLeod), Bowering finds Mairi’s voice still alive and powerful across three centuries. In spare verse, Bowering searches for traces of Mairi and for what it means to be:

a woman poet in a changing culture when poetry, as in Mairi’s later years, is largely disregarded; about having a vocation for an art form for which there is small reward or place; and about being an older woman living with the problems of age which include grief, anger, and physical fragility (and with the need for some pain-killing whisky) and with its privileges, too, such as having learned trust in heart and intuition and to believe, despite the flow of contemporary events, that words retain the power to affirm human values and communicate wisdom across cultures and even time and space. That words may outlast a fall of darkness (Afterword 66).

Bowering accomplishes what she sets out to. Most poems… contain a precision in line and rhythm that allow for pure conjuring..[and] push back against the fall of darkness with startling, eerie images….Given how Mairi herself was exiled for delivering poems to clan leaders that they did not like, and given the silencing of women poets’ voices that still occurs today, it is fitting the book ends with “Rodel,” a poem that speaks to Mairi’s burial and how “it is said by some, that she asked to be buried face down; and by others that it was done by those who had not thought she had a right to be a poet.”

Brenda Leifso, Arc Poetry Magazine, Winter 2017