Across the threshold

The Hocken Library. Photo: ODT files
The Hocken Library. Photo: ODT files
I thought it would be easy to find out the definition of "threshold", but it turns out that not even Google really knows.
Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

The "thresh" part is mostly thought to be to do with the loosening of the edible parts of grain. The "hold" part is the bit that is etymologically disputed. Is it a door lip to keep the grain in? Or out?

This week I’ve had the privilege of crossing new thresholds. I’ve been in the Otago Corrections Facility before, to watch Ruth Carraway’s prison theatre group’s forum-style play during the Fringe. But this time, as I loosened my Docs on the threshold last Tuesday, I was going in to help my girlfriend run a creative writing workshop. (If the definition of the word "help" includes making up terrible Shrek haiku, I think I did an OK job.) I undid seven, eight, nine rainbow laces, peeled them off my feet and walked through the scanner three times and back again until we established there was much metal on the button of my jacket. We were given red emergency button things and told to press them as soon as we needed, not to think twice about pressing them, not to press them to check them, and people would come running. There was a threshold before that one come to think of it, at the entrance building, and another before we got into the workshop.

As well as the haiku, we sat and made erasure poems and the guys (who I will not name here because I forgot to ask their permission) wrote some stunning dialogue of people arguing about naming their band or their team. (There is, by the way, a great scene in Shrek where they name the something something Alpha Wolf Squadron in this way.) We talked about People Against Prisons Aotearoa, about their Party to End Prisons. We talked about making committees. We talked about making zines.

I crossed a different threshold on Wednesday. We went to the Hocken Library to look at some of the art so we could start thinking about a performance there later this year. In case you think I’m casually writing that sentence, you should know that I’ve walked or driven past the Hocken more times than I can count and wished I could go inside. Of course, if I’d bothered to check their website I would have seen the words "open to the public" and been able to navigate through a whole lot, including their hakena database online, but the threshing that had a hold on my head said something like people like you don’t go places like that, they will know that you don’t belong. (Maybe Shrek said it better: Ogres are like onions. Or maybe I just wanted to mention Shrek again, OK?)

Inner onion rings quelled, when I got over myself and into the building, the resources and the people (who again, I forgot to ask if I could write about by name) and the knowledge and the enthusiasm were fascinating. Buzzed in behind an art-keeping-in security door, I was in another world within another world. I’ve got so used to treating pictures as delete-able commodities, but these told way more than a thousand words.

And on the subject of words, another threshold I crossed this week was massive for me. I am now not a one-book but a two-book poet. If you’d like to judge a book by its cover you can check out Lucinda King’s exquisite single-thread-stitched work at If you’d like to judge it by the sounds of the words inside, we’ll be launching it at Rhyme x Reason on June 9 in Wanaka and in Dunedin at Adjo on June 19. I will not be shaking hands at the door. It’s a Polish thing, apparently, that you don’t greet people while they’re on the threshold, but welcome them in instead and shake when you’re together on the inside.

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