Review of Muse by George Elliott Clarke for The Chronicle Herald
Musing on muses
"Dawn Marie Kresan’s debut collection of poems, Muse, re-animates the Victorian, redhead siren, Elizabeth Siddal, whose modelling provided the face of the greatest works of Pre-Raphaelite art from the brush, especially of her future husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. However, as Kresan’s bio for Siddal stresses, her own “small, artistic output would be forever overshadowed by her role as Pre-Raphaelite model, mistress, and tragic muse.” To correct the repression of Siddal’s creativity, to rescue her from imprisonment in men’s silencing and exploitative portraiture, Kresan imagines Siddal’s responses to the male painters’ uses — and abuses — of her, as well as her responses to the philandering of her lover and, briefly, her spouse, Rossetti [...] Kresan is keen to emphasize female genius. So Siddal (d. 1862) is placed in the company of much later women such as Monroe and the princess, but also writers Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. In Muse, Kresan addresses Siddal directly: “By what authority do I speak of you — / sordid red metaphor through my colourless hands. / Your dead child and forgotten art used to enrich mine.” An imaginary girl inspires the strongest poem: “She weeps over useless stumps. / What is the point of keeping oneself clean / and sinless if the body will be torn / from itself in either case?” The lines have Margaret Atwood’s visceral concision: “Butchered, the knob-boned shorn-skin twists/ like thick branches blown from a trunk, / bluntly chopped short before the edge of sky.”More, please."