Pink Museum by Caroline Crew

Pink Museum
Caroline Crew
December 2015
Washington, DC
Big Luck Books
166 pages
ISBN: 9781941985038
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Caroline Crew's poetry collection, Pink Museum, is compiled of five poetic sections, including one named with the book’s title. The Pink Museum possesses a singular, recurring theme, which encompasses the rest. Crew's poems reflect a certain kind of feminine mysticism influenced by Victorian sonnets, particularly those written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

However, out of all the "dead women" out there, why is she so vocal about Browning’s inspiration? In a recent interview between the writer and the author, Crew explained her literal translation of stanzas as rooms. She wanted to explore what it mean to be a woman, a poet, in a hetero-normative relationship. This intertwines with the reason she named the book Pink Museum, instead of the manuscript’s working title, Plastic Sonnets.

"[I am] using the poem to create spaces in which I can entertain both the self and idea of Elizabeth Browning as well as other nameless women in history,” she explains. The Pink Museum doesn’t exclude the pain in women’s herstory, which is frequently overlooked:

    in the pink museum we have no footsteps
    we examine the bombs so finely wrought
    exquisite to have hands so explosive
    consolation is each other
    one dead sister for another
    framed overly golden all curled up
    glittered for a crowd adorning
    in replacement for chloroform (53)

Although Crew briefly read Browning’s work in high school, she felt compelled to read more of her writing in college, thanks to an inspiring Victorian poetry professor, who also happened to write speeches for the United Nations. “This woman [Browning] wrote experimental novels and verse about prostitution and gender roles,” Crew adds, “but we think of her as the Hallmark card poet.”

Oftentimes, we mistake Browning’s work for sappy love notes, and the majority of writers eventually read “How Do I Love Thee?” at some point of their literary careers, earlier or later. Crew’s goal with Pink Museum, as a full-length work rather than a shorter chapbook, was to go beyond Browning and include other feminine influences.
The women in her life also inspire her work. The original Pink Museum manuscript was Crew’s MFA thesis from University of Massachusetts-Amherst, to which she accredits her professor, Dara Wier, for her mentorship and support. Additionally, the poet’s workshops at Emory University in Atlanta with Heather Cristle challenged her idea of the poem itself. 

Crew is currently working on a manuscript about growing up on a rural farm in a heavily Celtic region of England, her native country. She has previously published several poetry chapbooks, but Pink Museum is her first full-length collection and includes longer, lengthier poems as compared to those in the past. The collection’s dedication reads “for all the dead women.” Enough said. 

Danielle Corcione
Nomadic Press
Corcione is a freelance writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. Her work has appeared on Upworthy, Motherboard, the Establishment, Femsplain, and more.