Maureen Thorson

Maureen Thorson: Tenth Anniversary Issue

Tenth Anniversary Issue: A Tribute to Guest Editors
Volume 11:1, Winter 2010

Guest Co-Editor, “Museum Issue,” Winter 2009


Maureen writes:
“Last year, I had the great pleasure of guest-editing, or rather, guest-curating the Museum Issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Editing is very much a function of curation: for the poet, that of situating individual lines, whether beautiful, workmanlike, harsh, or merely unusual, within a larger context that suits a particular taste and gives them meaning beyond themselves. For the editor of a journal, the process is repeated on a larger scale, using whole poems. Moreover, these poems are not one’s own: no cutting off rough edges or hiding bits behind the curtains here. This intensifies the editor’s role as a collector, presenting to the public a variety of art and artifacts, turned and grouped to what one hopes is their collective advantage.

The poems in the Museum Issue grouped themselves quite readily into ‘rooms,’ creating another parallel with the museums that dot Washington with immense columns, modernist angles, walls rounded and pounded like river stones, glassy domes, and every architectural style and fillip in between. A sort of museum of museums. From city planner to journal editor, each curator must ask whether this one does anything for that one, whether the long ode to an old saw heightens the effect of the delicate portrait, or vice versa. The curator, like a kid proffering a mix-tape to a potential sweetheart, must put her taste to public review and judgment. Hopefully, they’ll at least find a gem in there, something they return to, again and again.”

From the Editor:
Maureen Thorson and I barely knew one another when I asked her to be a guest co-editor. But I had greatly admired her own poetry and her work as publisher of Big Game Books, and wanted the opportunity to learn from her. Our issue of Museum poems was published in 2009. I thank her for taking such a leap of faith when she agreed to participate. Maureen’s own poems are marked by leaps—surprising vaults of associations and imagery that exhibit her great wit. She was a featured poet in Spring 2008.



Kathy Keler, "Ladder I," 2009, acrylic and alkyd on wood, 18" x 6"

Kathy Keler, “Ladder I,” 2009, acrylic and alkyd on wood, 18″ x 6″


In Neptune’s court, the order is proclaimed:
Song is the language of waves!

From sail to motor to capstan,
The news travels mermaidingly,
The Sargasso grapevine sings.

Peg-legged salts in tropical ports
Exchange the hoary wisdom: to wit
As sure as baubles on Xmas,
When the whales hum, the stevedores sing along,

When the gulls do their addition,
When the squid pay taxes,
When anemones study ergonomics,
All is revealed

In endless meter, in measure after
Endless measure. Even we sailors,

Trespassers over the slothful depths,
The current currents,
Even we hunters of paisley-banded
Parrot fish, two-ton tunas, and
The sleek and seldom seals must engage

In little shanties, whereby all
The most important aspects of drunkenness
And danger are thoroughly discussed.

So sing the salts in their ravaged voices,
Sounding like soundings, like six bells
Ringing, like the rhythmical slap
Of waves over waves over waves.



In the light of the Bombay lamp,
His book sleeping on his lap

His posture quite correct,
Wiry, elegant

A mark of martial bearing,
Like drumbeats out of hearing

But felt along the ground.
As scars remark a wound,

So his weary legs remember
The troughs of waves and tender

Up their learning at his ease:
He has the ocean in his knees

His arms, his chest, his back,
And though he’s safe at dock,

One leg rocks like a long gun’s boom;
Otherwise he’s still—

Ebbed, becalmed until
His silence floods the room.



Beat up this one time in Paris
By a German in a blue hat.
Why were you so far from the sea?
Who gave you guys shore leave?

You’re forever ignoring your sails—
More often drunk and holding matches
To the bowsprit than darning tears.
You yell, we’ll let the mother burn!

But you never do. Later, swinging
In hammocks, you recall Paris:
The girls’ loose shirts, the German’s
Aslant beret. Only water could

Have saved you then, the waves
Your tower, your refuge. And here
They are for you, little you,
All hopped up on hornpipes and rum,

Watching them flame out in moonlight.
The ocean’s silver all your glitter,
Your last citadel and salvation.
Your own salty Champs d’Elysees.




Maureen Thorson is the author of three chapbooks, Twenty Questions for the Drunken Sailor (flynpyntar/dusie 2009), Mayport (Poetry Society of America 2006) and Novelty Act (Ugly Duckling Presse 2004). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Hotel Amerika, 6x6 and The Hat. She lives in Washington, DC, where she practices law and runs Big Game Books, the smallest press in the world. To read more by this author: Maureen Thorson: Spring 2008 Maureen Thorson's Introduction to The Museum Issue, Winter 2009