Beth Ann Fennelly

poet laureate icon
1971 –
Poet Laureate of Mississippi, 2016–2021

Beth Ann Fennelly was born in New Jersey in 1971 and grew up in the Chicago area. She received a BA from the University of Notre Dame in 1993 and an MFA from the University of Arkansas in 1998. From 1998 to 1999, she attended the University of Wisconsin as a Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow.

Fennelly is the author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs (W. W. Norton, 2017); Unmentionables (W. W. Norton, 2008); Tender Hooks (W. W. Norton, 2004); and Open House (Zoo Press, 2002), winner of the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize. The Harvard Review notes, “Beth Ann Fennelly’s poems are consistently dramatic, complex in their perceptions and formal unfolding, and enthralled with language.” She has also published two books of nonfiction, including The Tilted World: A Novel (HarperCollins, 2013), which she cowrote with her husband, the author Tom Franklin.

Fennelly has received grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Fulbright Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, United States Artists, and the Illinois Arts Council.

Fennelly, who taught briefly at Knox College before joining the faculty at the University of Mississippi in 2002, currently directs the university’s MFA program. In 2016, she was appointed Mississippi’s fifth poet laureate and served until 2021. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Read about Beth Ann Fennelly’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship project.