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Laura Salvatore
Guest Editor

Reviews of Anne Whitehouse’s Chapbooks
“Surrealist Muse” and “Escaping Lee Miller”


Surrealist Muse by Anne Whitehouse


100 copies in a limited edition designed and handmade by Sara Lefsyk. Available from Ethel, a twice-yearly limited-edition, hand-made journal of writing and art and a micro-press specializing in handmade and hand-bound chapbooks and mini-books.

Cover image Who Art Thou, White Face by Leonora Carrington. Copyright © 2020 Estate of Leonora Carrington and the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.




Escaping Lee Miler by Anne Whitehouse


A 2021 limited edition of 75 copies. Available from Ethel, a twice-yearly limited-edition, hand-made journal of writing and art and a micro-press specializing in handmade and hand-bound chapbooks and mini-books.

Escaping Lee Miller is Anne Whitehouse’s second chapbook with Ethel Zine & Micro Press, following Surrealist Muse, about Leonora Carrington, in 2020.



From the moment you hold Anne Whitehouse’s new chapbooks “Surrealist Muse” and “Escaping Lee Miller” in your hands, you have an experience that brings you straight into the worlds she is summoning through her verses. The artistry of these chapbooks is like something straight out of the surrealist era. The visceral experience of the stitching on the covers and the tactile nature of the material used for the covers will take your breath away before you’ve even entered their pages. Luckily, Whitehouse’s poetry keeps the momentum going. She writes about the lives of two iconic women artists, who found themselves in spheres of the world dominated by men, who through their artwork and resilience made impacts that reverberate to this day. Whitehouse pays tribute to both of them through her gorgeous poetry, taking the reader on journeys that flow so seamlessly from page to page that they’re impossible to put down until the last word has been read.

I began with “Surrealist Muse,” a stunning chapbook that starts the reader out with the front cover image, a painting by Leonora Carrington (the subject of the chapbook) called “Who Art Thou, White Face.” Through the pages, Whitehouse brings us on a journey that goes through the incredible artist’s life story with language feels like The Lady of Shallot has jumped out of the 19th century and straight into Carrington’s surrealist world. This lyrical history starts with the entry of Loplop, who represents Max Ernst, the artist and older lover of Carrington. Whitehouse takes us through the journey of Carrington’s life, her various loves, her struggle with identity, and her creation of the paintings that are worlds unto themselves. Whitehouse creates this fairytale-like poem that takes the reader on a journey where often you might forget you are reading about a woman who truly lived these experiences– this narration of Carrington’s life feels like it is told in a way that Carrington herself would have chosen. It is as though through the magic of occult and transformation; her paintings have re-invented themselves through words and splayed themselves across the page. The reader will find themselves transported through lines such as,

The mythic and occult
Leonora had sought since childhood
came to dwell with them
for a year of days filled with light
falling through the open shutters
of the tall windows of the studio
where she painted mysterious images
with enigmatic meanings

As a reader, you travel through the beautiful moments and the extremely difficult moments of Carrington’s life. Whitehouse doesn’t shy away from telling us about the abuse Carrington suffered and the inner strength that kept her going. We are told the facts of her life in a way that is honest and compelling through her sorrows and triumphs.

Whitehouse intertwines her own words with quotes from Carrington herself, giving the poem a seamless sense of interpreting Carrington’s world without taking liberties that would seem inauthentic. As a reader, you will find yourself swept up in Carrington’s story, with a new appreciation for both the artist and for Whitehouse, who’s words are art in and of themselves.

With “Escaping Lee Miller” Whitehouse jumps into a different world, where she explores the life of the artist and war-time photojournalist, facing the hard truths of Miller’s experiences through lines of poetry that tell her biography in a way that feels truer than a history book could accomplish. Whitehouse tells Miller’s story, with lines such as these two that show us the character and resilience of the artist:

A step ahead of tragedy, Lee stayed on the move.
She took risks, challenged herself, and didn’t give in.

Miller’s legacy is represented throughout these pages in a way that tells the historical story of a once-living legend and the ways that her experiences wreaked havoc on her mind and body, while understanding the motivations and artistry behind Miller’s career and life choices. All the while, Whitehouse tells us of the complications of being a woman during the twentieth century and how Miller continued to defy the boxes that others tried to place her into.

Whitehouse doesn’t shy away from the gruesome details, describing the horrific sights that Miller saw as part of her photojournalist role in World War II, but keeps the sensitivity of tapping into the personal horrors that Miller was working through. Whitehouse writes about the infamous photograph of Miller in Hitler’s bathtub, evoking haunting images of events that have forever marked the world. She takes time to step back from the wide scale horror and tragedy to show us personal moments of tragedy and reckoning that Miller was working through while witnessing the horrors of the war:

As she photographed the emaciated corpses
and living skeletons, she scanned the faces
to see if any of her friends were among them.
She recorded prisoners who died as she stood there.

Whitehouse doesn’t try to soften the hardness of Miller’s personality either. She goes right into the relationship Miller had with her son, (“She never tried to nurse him./ She rarely showed him affection.) and shows us a whole picture of a complicated person.

The generosity and thoughtfulness with which Whitehouse represents both of these incredible women and their art shows that not only is she an admirer of their work, but that her own writing could belong to the same era-defying worlds that Miller and Carrington found themselves to be a part of. As someone who walked into these chapbooks with a sense of fondness and appreciation for both Leonora Carrington and Lee Miller already, I left with a heightened sense of connection and appreciation for all they did. It is as though Whitehouse has stepped into her own occult to channel both these women and tell their stories.


About the reviewer:
Laura Salvatore is a poet living in Queens, New York. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at The City College of New York. Her work has been featured in Angel City Review, Quail Bell Magazine, Pith Magazine, and Apricity Magazine. 

About Anne Whitehouse:
Anne Whitehouse is also the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Outside from the Inside (Dos Madres Press, 2020), as well as a novel, Fall Love, and short stories, essays, and reviews. Ethelzine has just published Surrealist Muse, her long poem about Leonora Carrington, as a mini-chapbook.

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