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Poetry Review     

Open House
By Beth Ann Fennelly
Zoo Press, 2000
$14.95 (76p)
ISBN: 0-9708177-5-4


Open House, which won the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry, confirms Fennelly's reputation as one of the best "young" voices in American poetry. 

David Baker, the series judge and poetry editor of The Kenyon Review, called Open House "a brilliant blueprint of the imagination." 

Using rooms as a metaphor for the poet's psyche, Fennelly writes, "I sing of four categories from which art is drawn:/ambition, love, religion and death./" 

In the book's opening section, "The Impossibility of Language," the poet examines the making of poetry and the ironies involved in finding the correct words and their etymologies. She finds poetry in her mother's post-it notes stuck to her poems and humor in being asked for a poem rather than a wedding gift. "Poem Not to Be Read at Your Wedding" is a wry epithalamium -- "You ask me for a poem about love/in place of a wedding gift, trying to save me/money ..... Well, Carmen, I would rather/give you your third set of steak knives/than tell you what I know .... /Don't make me warn you of stars, how they see us...." 

The poet revisits death and the losses that haunt humans in "The Room of Echoes" a series of elegies for her father. 

"From L' Hotel Terminus Notebooks," (The Room of Paper Walls), the poet's persona invites the reader into the creative process. Her alter-ego, Mr. Daylater, teases, "You have a lot of friends. Some of whom even exist." 

Domesticity abounds in the book's closing section, "The Room of Everywhere." In her notes, Fennelly thoughtfully includes a recipe alluded to in the poem, "Why I Can't Cook for Your Self-Centered Architect Cousin." 

Prior to the publication of her first collection, Fennelly's poems had been published in Poets of the New Century, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, The Best American Poetry 1996, and The Pushcart Prize 2001 in addition to numerous literary journals and periodicals. Married to the novelist, Tom Franklin (Poachers), Fennelly and their daughter have just completed a year in Oxford, where Franklin was the John Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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