July 2014

"In Muse, Dawn Marie Kresan also examines poetic inspiration but through the figure of Elizabeth Siddal, wife and (tragic) muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The feminist, revisionist approach of this collection is hinted at by the opening quotation of Robert Graves: "Woman is muse or she is nothing." Though Siddal was a poet in her own right, she has gone down in (patriarchal) history primarily as the inspiration for her husband's paintings. In the poem "Viridescent," Kresan compares the way Siddal saw herself to the way her husband represented her: "He painted your gaze downcast/ claimed the right to control/ what your eyes gathered in. / Yet, in this, your only self-portrait, / you stare back – those / large, sad eyes, confronting." Kresan admires Siddal's defiance, her strength. Through poems, Kresan re-remembers this marginalized woman and puts Siddal in the center of her own life. This is tremendously moving poetry, and Muse is an impressive debut."

—Reviewed by Angie Abdou for The Fernie Fix

                                               Books Divider

June 2014

Read the entire review here: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2014/06/muse-by-dawn-marie-kresan.html

“Kresan has mastered the use of imagery in her poems; they convey so much in so few words. The loss of a child and one’s sanity becomes palatable, like bile rising in the throat, threatening to burn the reader, providing just a taste of that loss. Kresan’s collection is searing and emotional, but also contemplative … In the final part of the collection, there are a series of conversations and interactions between Siddal and other famous women … evolving over and over, creating a more complex look at the relationship between muse and artist, muse and reader/viewer, and muse to oneself.”

—Reviewed by Serena M. Agusto-Cox for Savvy Verse and Wit

                                               Books Divider

March 2014

Read the entire review with some poem excerpts here: http://michaeldennispoet.blogspot.ca/2014/03/muse-dawn-marie-kresan_20.html 

"Dawn Marie Kresan starts her collection Muse by offering us a brief biographical sketch of Elizabeth Siddal — and then Siddal becomes the central character in Kresan's opus...  Kresan doesn't limit the party to Pre-Raphaelite's like her husband and his crew, no, this discussion is opened up to a stove-weary Sylvia Plath and the ever loquacious Marilyn Monroe. Kresan is dead serious in her playfulness... Princess Diana, Anne Sexton and a score of other strong, dead, women of legend and passion pop up as Kresan hop-scotches her way through the culture of women and men, muse and mis-used. Kresan provides numerous and quite useful notes (something I generally highly disapprove of — but in this case it works and it is helpful) as well as a bibliography of source materials. And that may lead you to think that these works, this book, is academic in nature. It's not. The life of Elizabeth Siddal is re-imagined and given a new vocabulary by Dawn Marie Kresan. Siddal is a muse and vehicle for Kresan. The engaging conversation Kresan creates out of the mouths of these many female icons is as amusing as it is intelligent."

—Reviewed by Michael Dennis for Today's Book of Poetry

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October 2013

          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.”

—Reviewed by Paul Pearson for Canadian Poetries

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September 2013

Read the entire review here: http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com/muse-a-new-poetry-collection-by-dawn-marie-kresnan/

“I was unprepared for the depth of emotion Kresan’s work creates. Her expertly crafted poems touch upon Lizzie’s discovery and role as muse to the Pre-Raphaelites.  Several poems include moments of Lizzie’s life that are now famous: posing as Ophelia, giving birth to a stillborn daughter. She boldly addresses John Ruskin, Lizzie’s patron, and Fanny Cornforth, Rossetti’s mistress… These poems have an intimate feel, as if I was reading a private journal. I was a snoop, reading thoughts and ideas that seem to mirror my own. For those who still seek to pursue Elizabeth Siddal, Muse burns with fire. Poems like ‘The Opiate’s Seduction’ and ‘Little Lizzie Snow’ are intense and profound … ‘He painted your eyes downcast, /claimed the right to control /what your eyes gathered in. /Yet, in this, your only self-portrait, /you stare back…’ I adored this inventive collection of poems, with its shifting perspectives and use of multiple voices.”

—Reviewed by Stephanie Graham Pina for Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

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September 2013


Musing on muses

...Kresan leaves the reader wanting more

"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.

To paint her as Shakespeare’s Ophelia, John Millais bid Siddal “lie hushed in a bath, / heavy fabric radiating.” But the “sparse row of candles, /meant to keep you warm, have long ago / burnt out. A cough settles / in your throat. Water nestles in lungs. / Sickness a small price to pay for art.”

These lines portray a selfish man exposing Siddal to sickness so that he can paint his masterpiece. But the next lines fall into cliché: “How perfectly you demonstrate devotion — / the descent into madness.”

If the imagery conjures up Elton John’s Candle in the Wind, his (and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s) saccharine elegy for Marilyn Monroe, later re-jigged to accommodate Princess Diana, it is apt that Kresan later presents Siddal and M.M. conversing and also a poem in which Di discusses Fame and Fast Men.

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."

 —Reviewed by George Elliott Clarke for The Chronicle Herald