Beth Ann Fennelly Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Beth Ann Fennelly is known primarily for her poetry. However, she also wrote Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother (2006), a series of letters to a former student who was expecting her first child. Fennelly drew on her own experience of pregnancy and childbirth for the book and noted that the process of having a child is not unlike the creation of a poem, just as difficult and just as rewarding.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Beth Ann Fennelly’s chapbook A Different Kind of Hunger won the 1997 Texas Review Breakthrough Award. Open House won the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry for a first book. Her status as a major American poet is evident not only in the praise of reviewers but also by the inclusion of her poems in The Pushcart Prize 2001: Best of the Small Presses, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet (2001), Poets of the New Century (2001), Contemporary American Poetry (2005), The Best American Poetry (2005), and The Best American Poetry (2006). In 2002, Fennelly received a creative writing fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. On March 5, 2003, she read her poetry at the Library of Congress.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Betts, Genevieve. Review of Unmentionables. Midwest Quarterly 50, no. 1 (Autumn, 2008): 108-110. Although Fennelly’s primary subject remains her reactions to the people and the places in her life, the poems in this collection are more complex than those in her previous works. The reviewer notes that in the section “The Kudzu Chronicles,” the poet commits herself to a new identity as a southerner.

Fennelly, Beth Ann. “My Hundred.” American Poetry Review 37, no. 5 (September/October, 2008): 35-37. Argues that by memorizing poems and then reciting them aloud, one completes the reading process. The essay includes suggestions for the use of memorization in the classroom.

Hass, Robert. “Losing Mr. Daylater: A Note on Beth Ann Fennelly.” Kenyon Review 23, nos. 3/4 (Summer/Fall, 2001): 28-30. A perceptive analysis of “From L’Hotel Terminus Notebooks,” pointing out how the poet utilizes the character of Mr. Daylater as a symbol of those forces that are the enemies of the imagination. Once he has been eliminated, Fennelly produces some of her finest poetry, notably in the sections of the poem that deal with love and death.

Olson, Ray. Review of Tender Hooks. Booklist 100, no. 13 (March 1, 2004): 1127. The reviewer is impressed by Fennelly’s poetic skills, such as her instinct as to where a line should end and her “striking epigrams.” No other poet deals with motherhood and with the mother-child relationship as effectively.

Rogoff, Jay. “Pushing and Pulling.” Southern Review 41, no. 1 (Winter, 2005): 189-210. An essay on the conflicts reflected in five new books of poetry, including Tender Hooks by Fennelly. Rogoff notes that the poet recognizes such obvious polarities as birth/death and pleasure/pain; however, she has not yet perfected her ability to move easily between “extravagance” and “restraint.”

Seaman, Donna. Review of Unmentionables. Booklist 104, no. 15 (April 1, 2008): 19. The poems in this collection are superbly crafted, and those that deal with motherhood are as honest, as direct, and as witty as those in her previous books. Fennelly is just as effective when she writes about kudzu, about the differences between Illinois and Mississippi, or about the artist Berthe Morisot.

Virginia Quarterly Review. Review of Open House. 78, no. 4 (September, 2002): 137-138. Praises Fennelly as a poet who takes risks, for example, including not only herself in the cast of characters but also her “poetic alter-ego,” Mr. Daylater. Also admires her for including such a wide range of ideas and references in her book.