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.