On Being Beata Beatrix (1870)

Poetry / Anna Leahy

:: On Being Beata Beatrix (1870) ::

He captured more ecstasy than I had
mustered, frustrated by leaning forward
as if for a kiss, my lips parted, my eyes closed,
my mind lolling through those old hours.
I fancied slumber but, later,
couldn’t sleep for all the coveting of it.

Originally, three muses: song, occasion, memory;
the voice singing, the moment and reason for utterance,
and the recalling of it after. How convenient
that the field opened up before me;
how thankful I am that room was made for me.
Consequence is not only what is borne

but also what is borne out—and so,
we carry on, we carry on so.


From the writer

:: Account ::

What does it mean to be the subject of art? Who creates art? How do creator and subject interact? Why, as Edgar Allan Poe suggested, are we fascinated by dead women?

Lizzie Siddal (1829-1862) was an artist’s model, a painter, and a poet. She is the model in John Everett Millais’s Ophelia and D. G. Rossetti’s How They Met Themselves, St. Catherine, and Beata Beatrix, among other paintings and drawings by these and other Victorian artists. John Ruskin purchased several of Siddal’s own paintings in 1855 and subsequently paid her a stipend for artwork she produced over several years. In 1860, after a long courtship during which she suffered intermittent ill health, Siddal married Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet D. G. Rossetti. After a stillbirth and becoming pregnant again, she died of a laudanum overdose. Lucinda Hawksley’s biography Lizzie Siddal (Walker & Co., 2004) was helpful to me in grappling with the facts of this woman’s life.


Anna Leahy’s book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize, and her chapbook Sharp Miracles is forthcoming from Blue Lyra Press. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at Chapman University, where she curates the Tabula Poetica series and edits the international journal TAB. With Douglas Dechow, she writes Lofty Ambitions blog at http://loftyambitions.wordpress.com.