Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan

Source: Tightrope Books
Paperback, 80 pages
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Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is a powerful poetry collection in which inspiration takes center stage as the narrator examines the relationship between the muse and an artist.  The collection begins with a biographical note about Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s muse, Elizabeth Siddal, who also became an artist herself after modeling for only one artist.  Kresan examines her role as Rossetti’s muse, an inspiration for a great many paintings, and how the artist must have seen her and how there is now a disconnect between the woman she was and the woman that patrons of the arts now see in those paintings.  She establishes the tone in the beginning with the poem “Found” when he gazes upon her beauty and is stunned, but the tone quickly devolves into something sadder with “Housebroken,” as the muse is compared to a dog and the trade-offs that are inherent when someone is dependent upon the good will of another.

From: "John Ruskin: The Patron" (page 21)

Your hair a canopy that blazes, feverish,
around the pallor of sunken cheeks.
He decides you have genius, and for this reason
must be saved, as one would save a beautiful tree
from being cut down.

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.  It asks the questions: what do we give up to be artists?  what do our inspirations/muses (even spouses) give up to be with artists?  How does this relationship challenge us … change us?

From "Brides with Plots: A Three-Act Play" (page 37)

Each time he paints you, you die again.  His signature, a bold
slash, enacts your vanishing.  The role
of muse requires

many deaths. ...

In the final part of the collection, there are a series of conversations and interactions between Siddal and other famous women — women who were considered muses in their own right, though maybe not to artists. She speaks with Princess Diana, Sylvia Plath, and others. Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is well paced for a poetry collection, evolving over and over, creating a more complex look at the relationship between muse and artist, muse and reader/viewer, and muse to oneself.

Book 18 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.



35th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.


  1. Love the sound of this one, and the cover is great.