Believable Heartbreak: Maureen Thorson's Applies to Oranges

By Harriet Staff


Maureen Thorson's Applies to Oranges (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011) has been deftly reviewed by Keith Gray over at Impose Magazine. Gray immediately notes all that work the title is doing:

Has any title aspired to do so much as Applies to Oranges, a false substitution from the start? Apples just an autocorrect away. Applies a somewhat more serious turn. The full-length poem from Maureen Thorson, a gorgeous looking thing from Ugly Duckling Presse (2011), feels the distinction deeply. What are the applications of an orange? Its rules and limitations? What is its language? Its “peculiar gesture of loss”?

Gray looks at the departure, return, and repetition of words in the book, nothing that "Nothing is a symbol exactly." More:

That word “orange” appears in each of the poem’s unmarked sections and this repetition does so much, both fruit and color in a single stroke. Each passage builds around expectation – it’s impossible to read without waiting for that word to come – and there’s relief when it does. An orange repeats itself too, in each segment and fallen seed, and the poem is made of both those things. But it never feels easy. Nothing is a symbol exactly. None of it has gone as planned. This is believable heartbreak, and the orange is right for it. The perfect way it fills the hand, teaches us holding, anticipates the sense of loss. The Creation Story told wrong. Adam takes the fruit and he fucking bolts. Absence carries through the pages like the scent of citrus on the hands.

Other words – Orphans, Satellites, Spiders, Tourists and Zenith (the tv) – also recur throughout. We’re in some kind of inner slideshow, each of these objects fixed in the frame as the background moves around it. Thorson has hopes for these objects, that their range of meaning signifies the possibility of an alternative outcome. That the archive of experience can somehow be shaped retroactively, and a better story told. Red satellites, indigo spiders, blue Zenith, orange oranges, seem to stretch through both the alphabet and full visible spectrum, and what Thorson has done, pretty remarkably, is build an empowering deck of words and wavelengths that are hers to deliver as she desperately needs.

The book is all failed signals, the sky filled with satellites “sending sounds to other machines,” their “murderous chirrups” overhead that are not a true connection, like “a promise that only one of us believed.” The huge sorrow of Applies to Oranges, and definitely its beauty, is in the one-way hope of reigniting a human connection. It’s a letter we write and know we shouldn’t send but also know we will.

That's a promising internal direction! Read the review in full here.

Originally Published: January 23rd, 2012