Mississippi poet laureate and author

Tender Hooks


Tender Hooks: Poems

Tender Hooks, Beth Ann’s second book (W. W. Norton, 2005), is poetry inspired by her daughter’s first year. “Intelligent without being academic,” says the publisher, “passionate without being sentimental, witty without being flippant, these poems illuminate the condition of new motherhood. This is a book to be relished by anyone who has had a child—or who has been one.” Poetry from this book won grants from the N.E.A., the Mississippi Arts Commission, and United States Artists, and was reprinted in The Best American Poetry, The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, and Poets of the New Century.

Move over, Sharon Olds, and make way, Denise Duhamel! Fennelly is a southern poet who writes of her own female experience as carnally, or perhaps incarnally, as either of those northerners . . .This is awesome, humanely humbling poetry.
Fennelly’s second book follows close upon her first, Open House, a well-received winner of the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize. In this equally engaging new collection, Fennelly is caught up with the birth of a daughter and maps her obsession. . . .Fennelly counters academic pretension with American spunk. A smart and vivacious book.
There are so many reasons for everyone, male or female, to read this collection. Fennelly is the sort of poet who reminds her readers why verse is so important to daily life. She cracks open pretension, and her in work, which is both accessible and high-minded, she suggests that poetry is, in fact, vital to our very existence.
There’s nothing easy or casual in Tender Hooks. As mommies everywhere know, motherhood is not for sissies. Fennelly sees her family as “a large target,” “a glass-smooth pond / just begging for a stone.” These poems are as sweet and loving as the title suggests, yet the face of Sylvia Plath peers out of more than one.
Yes, Tender Hooks is mostly about motherhood, but Fennelly’s vision has more in common with Tarantino’s than Martha Stewart’s. One long, rich poem placed at the center of the collection, ‘Telling the Gospel Truth’, puts the blood and sweat back into the nativity, before moving on, cleverly and without contrivance, to contemplate the fatuity of poems that use ‘dinner knives to check for spinach in their teeth’. Fennelly’s poems aren’t mannered, needless to say. They’re plain, funny, and raw, and if you want to buy a present that isn’t cute or dreamy for a new mother then Tender Hooks will hit the spot— and won’t stop hitting it even though it’s sore.