Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review of Muse on Canadian Poetries Blog

The original review can be found here:

          "You painted yourself inconsequential
          compared to his larger-than-life women."

Dawn Marie Kresan’s first full-length collection is quietly surprising. Muse is ostensibly about Elizabeth Siddal, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s wife and, of course, muse. The first half of the book progresses much as one would expect, a deliberate and careful circumnavigation of gender, art and agency:

          “He painted your gaze downcast,
           claimed the right to control
           what your eyes gathered in.”

Kresan spent more than a decade crafting this book and it shows in certain shining moments and images: 

          “Your buttoned-up heart burns
          in this winter white world”

          "The dove
          places a poppy in your hands. Your hair,
          an ecstatic red."

The first half of the book is a competent tracing of a tragic life. Things get really interesting, however, in the third section. Imagining Elizabeth and Sylvia Plath reading obituaries together:

          “Her own last hours, vomiting blood,
           a tube pushed down her thin throat. What art
           out of this?"

Imagine Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe having a slumber party, comparing drug addictions, Elizabeth and Jane Morris at a museum presented as a short play, Elizabeth and Princess Diana, limericks on tombstones. Kresan takes the time to make more space for Elizabeth in her book than she had in her own writing. And by doing so she makes space for the reader to connect with Elizabeth. Instead of ending the collection by drawing a line between a stillborn child and a stillborn art, Kresan, through Mrs. Beeton’s cooking class, reminds Elizabeth, and us, to “...savour / the pleasure of her creations.”

 —review by Paul Pearson