Volume 10:1, Winter 2009

Introduction by Guest Editor, Maureen Thorson

Museums have a strange and sordid history. Religious institutions and the very wealthy have always made use of art and curiosities, though not necessarily for educational or civic purposes. It was not until the advent of the eighteenth century’s benevolent despots that the idea of collecting and arranging things (whether beautiful, historic, or simply strange) as a public service came into vogue. That was the age of the kunstkamera—the art room, a mini-museum covering everything that came into the collector’s grasp. (Peter the Great’s kunstkamera maintained a live dwarf, an assortment of odd rocks, and jars of preserved babies’ heads). Soon museums were everywherethe British Museum, the Vatican Museums, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Louvre all opened within the space of fifty years.

This fad did not fail to grab the attention of our founding fathers and mothers. The Age of Reason became, in America, the Age of Collection. Strange and beautiful items from all over the world were funneled back into the United States. Once here, those items often found their way to Washington, DC, thanks to the combined influence of the Library of Congress and the last will and testament of one James Smithson. Washington is a city of museums.

This fact has impressed itself on Washington’s poets, and in this spirit, Kim Roberts and I have gathered together our own kunstkamera of poems dealing with museumstheir collections, their workers, and the many ways in which they fulfill their founders’ hopes of enlarging the scope of civic life. In these poems, poets engage in conversations with artists, their subjects, and with art itself. They stand in witness to the forces of history. They create and they arrange. And each poemin its words and imagesforms its own collection. I hope you are inspired.


Maureen Thorson is the editor and publisher of Big Game Books, and author of two chapbooks, Mayport (Poetry Society of America, 2006), and Novelty Act (Ugly Ducking Presse, 2004). She co-curates the In Your Ear reading series at the DC Art Center with Cathy Eisenhower. Thorson works as an attorney and lives in Washington, DC.

Read more by this author:
Maureen Thorson
Maureen Thorson: Tenth Anniversary Issue


Volume 10:1, Winter 2009


Table of Contents

I. Portrait Gallery

Cheryl Snell, "Guarding Ginevra"
Kendra Kopelke, "Woman in the Sun"
Anne Becker, "Not a Ghazal: Snapshots from the Museum of Life"
Lalita Noronha, "Sisterhood"
Saundra Rose Maley, "Walking Toward King Tutankhamun"
Edna Small, "Queens in the Garden"

II. Among Masters

Stephen Cushman, "Woman with the Arrow"
Jody Bolz, "Details from a Pair of Sixfold Screens"
Parris Garnier, "Still Life with Bivalve"
Ann Rayburn, "Seduction"
Dan Brady, "Molly Sees Saturn Devouring His Sons"
Linda Pastan, "Three Skulls on an Oriental Rug"
Marcela Sulak, "Rubens' House"

III. Behind the Scenes

David Gewanter, "Leopard Man"
M.A. Schaffner, "Wayward Docents"
Rose Marie Berger, "Architectural Detail"
Amani Elkassabany, "At the South Wall"

IV. How We Lived

Margaret Yocom, "Donation"
Katherine E. Young, "Lermontov's Room"
Barbara Lefcowitz, "At the Emplekpont Remembrance Museum"
Mary Ann Larkin, "Farmer Plowing"
Sarah Browning, "The Walton Mountain Museum"
M.C. Allan, "Evolution"
Kyle Dargan, "After Visiting the Newseum"

V. The Modern Wing

Reginald Harris, "The Knockout"
Alan King, "The Lovers"
Martin Galvin, "Gallery at the Tate"
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, "Nude Descending in All Directions"
Mel Belin, "At the Exhibit"
Melissa Tuckey, "Time's Arrow"
Andrew Haley, "Rauschenberg's Prints"
Francisco Aragón, "Arttalk"
Rosemary Klein, "In the Museum of My Own Being"