The sixth book by University of Mississippi English professor and Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly will be released Oct. 10, giving readers a combination of the extreme abbreviation of poetry, narrative tension of fiction and truth-telling of creative nonfiction.
A book launch event at 5 p.m. Oct. 15 at Square Books will celebrate the release of “Heating and Cooling” (W.W. Norton and Co.). Other events are slated to follow, as listed on Fennelly’s website.
The collection includes 52 different “micro-memoirs.”
“Some of my pieces in ‘Heating & Cooling’ are simply memories that seemed to hold more than themselves,” Fennelly said.
“Some are quirky observations. Some are tiny scenes, bits of overheard conversations that, with the surrounding noise edited out, seemed to reverberate. The shortest is one sentence; the longest is a few pages.”
Though each piece is short, like a vignette, they combine to tell a complete tale, Fennelly said.
“I call mine ‘micro-memoirs’ to indicate that they are little stories taken from my life, but they’re not fragments; they don’t depend on each other to make sense,” Fennelly said. “Hitting on the term helped me move forward, helped me relax into the joys of writing pieces that know the shape of their own thinking.”
To learn more about Fennelly’s inspirations for the book, go to https://vimeo.com/178934822/
Her first poetry collection, “Open House” (Zoo Press) was published in 2001. It was a Book Sense Top Ten Poetry Pick and won a Kenyon Review Prize, a Zoo Press Poetry Prize and a Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award.
W.W. Norton published her second and third collections of poetry, “Tender Hooks” (2004) and “Unmentionables” (2008), as well as her book of nonfiction, “Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother” (2006).
In 2013, HarperCollins published “The Tilted World,” a novel that Fennelly co-wrote with her husband, author Tom Franklin, who is also a member of the Ole Miss English faculty. It was named an IndieNext Great Read, became a finalist for the 2014 SIBA Book Award and has been published in six foreign editions.
Fennelly’s poem “The Kudzu Chronicles,” from “Unmentionables,” is grounded in her experience in Mississippi and references William Faulkner, the Neshoba County Fair and her home in Oxford. Its closing stanzas were used as lyrics for Jackson musician Claire Holley’s song “Kudzu.”
She was named UM Humanities Teacher of the Year and College of Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year in 2011.
Born in New Jersey and reared in the Chicago area, Fennelly has written and taught around the United States and world before settling in Mississippi in 2001. She received a bachelor’s degree, graduating magna cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame, then taught English for a year in a coal mining village on the Czech-Polish border.
She returned to the U.S. to earn her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas. She then completed a Diane Middlebrook Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin and went on to teach at Knox College in Illinois.
She has completed residencies at the University of Arizona and MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, fellowships at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and Sewanee, and a 2009 Fulbright grant studying poetry in Brazil.
Fennelly has received a number of national awards, including a 2001 Pushcart Prize and a 2002 National Endowment of the Arts grant in poetry. She received a United States Artist Grant in 2006 and the Subiaco Award for Literary Merit in 2012.
The Mississippi Arts Commission awarded Fennelly grants for nonfiction in 2005 and 2015, and for poetry in 2010. In 2015, the A Room of Her Own Foundation presented her with the Orlando Award in Nonfiction, and in 2016, she received the Lamar York Prize in Creative Nonfiction from The Chattahoochee Review.
In 2016, Gov. Phil Bryant named her Mississippi’s poet laureate, which comes with a four-year term she is using to make poetry more accessible to Mississippians.
Ivo Kamps, UM professor and chair of English, noted that while Fennelly is a celebrated poet and accomplished novelist, he’s excited to see what she does in the essay format.
“No doubt the essays will be incisive, arresting and beautifully written,” Kamps said. “In fact, one of the essays included in the volume already won the prestigious Lamar York Prize, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the book as a whole received a great deal of critical attention and garnered official recognition.”
The university is fortunate to have her in its classrooms, Kamps said.
“Our students who enroll in Professor Fennelly’s creative nonfiction classes are very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from someone this talented and accomplished,” Kamps said.
By Michael Newsom
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