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About this poet

Beth Ann Fennelly was born in New Jersey and grew up in the Chicago area. She received a BA from the University of Notre Dame in 1993 and an MFA from the University of Arkansas in 1998. From 1998 to 1999, she attended the University of Wisconsin as a Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow.

Fennelly is the author of the poetry collections Unmentionables (W. W. Norton, 2008); Tender Hooks (W. W. Norton, 2004); and Open House (Zoo Press, 2002), winner of the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize. The Harvard Review notes, “Beth Ann Fennelly’s poems are consistently dramatic, complex in their perceptions and formal unfolding, and enthralled with language.”

Fennelly has also published two books of nonfiction, including The Tilted World: A Novel (HarperCollins, 2013), which she cowrote with her husband, Tom Franklin.

Fennelly has received grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the State of Illinois Council, among others. She directs the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, where she has taught since 2002. In 2016, she was named Mississippi’s fifth poet laureate. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.


Unmentionables (W. W. Norton, 2008)
Tender Hooks (W. W. Norton, 2004)
Open House (Zoo Press, 2002)

The Tilted World: A Novel (HarperCollins, 2013)
Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother (W. W. Norton, 2006)

The Kudzu Chronicles - Oxford, Mississippi [excerpt]

Kudzu sallies into the gully
like a man pulling up a chair 
where a woman was happily dining alone.   
Kudzu sees a field of cotton,
wants to be its better half.
Pities the red clay, leaps across 
the color wheel to tourniquet.  
Sees every glass half full,
pours itself in.  Then over the brim.
Scribbles in every margin 
with its green highlighter.  Is begging 
to be measured.  Is pleased 
to make acquaintance with
your garden, which it is pleased to name
Place Where I Am Not.
Yet.  Breeds its own welcome mat.

Why fret 
if all it wants
is to lay one heart—
shaped palm
on your sleeping back?   

Why fright 
when the ice 
machine dumps its 
armload of diamonds?

From Unmentionables by Beth Ann Fennelly. Copyright © 2008 by Beth Ann Fennelly. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

From Unmentionables by Beth Ann Fennelly. Copyright © 2008 by Beth Ann Fennelly. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly is the author of three poetry collections, including Unmentionables (W. W. Norton, 2008). She currently serves as Mississippi's fifth poet laureate and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

by this poet

Though we vacationed in a castle, though I 
rode you hard one morning to the hum
of bees that buggered lavender, and later
we shared gelato by a spotlit dome
where pigeons looped like coins from a parade--
we weren’t transported back to newlyweds.
We only had a week, between new jobs, 
we both were pinched with