In August 2016 Governor Phil Bryant named Beth Ann Fennelly as Mississippi’s fifth poet laureate. Fennelly is the author of three collections of poetry: Unmentionables (W. W. Norton, 2008), Tender Hooks (W. W. Norton, 2004), and Open House (Zoo Press, 2002), as well as three books of nonfiction. She will serve a four-year term.

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Mississippi poet laureate

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...



    No, I don't know

the way to get there.
    Two empty suitcases sit in the corner,
if that's any kind of clue.


    This spring night,

everyone at the party
    younger than me
except for one man.
    We give each other the secret password.


    Tears? Of course, but also the
Vicksburg, Mississippi

Here, the Mississippi carved
            its mud-dark path, a graveyard

for skeletons of sunken riverboats.
            Here, the river changed its course,

turning away from the city
            as one turns, forgetting, from the past—

the abandoned bluffs, land sloping up


Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.  They stare
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.  I know
their dark eyes, they