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 Poetry Review    



Tender Hooks
By Beth Ann Fennelly
Norton, 2004
Hardcover, $23.95 (119 pages)
ISBN: 0-393-05862-X

Tender Hooks, Beth Ann Fennelly's follow-up to her much acclaimed Open House, is a collection of poems about the birth of her daughter Claire. Fennelly's husband, Tom Franklin the fiction writer, has multiple cameos. Confessional in nature, these poems document their first year as parents. 

Told from a mother's point of view, the poet's persona chronicles the changes in her daughter, her husband, her marriage, and herself without shying away from the sheer physicality of giving birth or the subtle rivalries between new parents. In "Interpreting the Foreign Queen," Fennelly tosses young Claire who " a shriek -- pure terror or pure delight?" while each parent reads ".... our own emotions in her eyes." As a compromise the mother "...puts her down" adding, "Just two more days till he goes out of town."  

Fennelly explains her choice of a title with an illustration from her childhood. Having misunderstood the expression "tenterhooks" as "tender hooks," she "wanted to figure out what I was experiencing. Not to provide answers but to understand questions.... this book reflects the sharp/sweet ambiguities of parenting..... I wrote the kind of book I wish I could have read when I was pregnant." 

Currently an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Mississippi, Fennelly and her family live in Oxford, Mississippi.


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews


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