Cover image for Tender hooks : poems
Tender hooks : poems
Fennelly, Beth Ann, 1971-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2004]

Physical Description:
119 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3556.E489 T46 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Beth Ann Fennelly is fearless in delineating the joys, absorptions, and--yes--jealousies of new motherhood. Having studied motherhood "as if for an exam," reality proved "wilder and deeper and funnier" than anything she'd anticipated.Tender Hooks is Fennelly's spirited exploration of parenting, with all its contradictions and complexities.

Author Notes

Beth Ann Fennelly is the author of Unmentionables, Tender Hooks, Open House and Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

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, incarnationally, as either of those northerners. If she is not as harrowing as Olds, whose reports of interfamilial violence can be hair-raising, or as hilarious as Duhamel, who seems frequently to have no shame, she is hardly reticent. Formally, she favors single poems and sequences longer than two pages, she seldom rhymes or constructs metered stanzas, her sense of where to break a line is as good as the late Denise Levertov's, she writes striking epigrams (e.g., First Day at Daycare : My daughter comes home smelling like / another woman's perfume ), and she often proceeds directly from the title into the body of a poem, as if the title were the first line. She writes primarily about the birth and infancy-to-toddlerhood of her daughter, secondarily about the loss of a previous daughter to miscarriage. She puts the physical realities of the mother-child bond--the touches, smells, sounds, and phenomena--into her poems with an ease that overrides queasiness (still, many men may blanch at her frank detail), relaying the experience of motherhood, including the emotional pain of miscarriage, more convincingly and intimately than any other poet who comes to mind. This is awesome, humanely humbling poetry. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The pun of the collection's title probes a predominating theme: the messy, sometimes angry and frequently euphoric terrain of new motherhood. The first poem, "Bite Me," displays Fennelly's characteristic earthy brashness: "finally I burst at the seams/ and you were out/ Look, Ha, you didn't kill me after all/ Monster I have you." Like Plath minus the lyricism or Sharon Olds minus the sweet aftertaste, Fennelly doesn't flinch from showing the darker side of mothering, not just the can't-see-straight exhaustion and the anxiety of new parenthood, but the fury of both infant and mother: "No one ever mentioned she's out for blood. I wince/ as she tugs milk from ducts all the way to my armpits." The wrath is marched in equal doses by evidence of primal, physical love: "I whispered in her see-through ear/ I'd keep her safe forever-/ I, her first lover." The two middle sections of the collection include poems of place, parents, love, followed by a long, meandering poem that juxtaposes the Bible, miscarriage, teaching writing and the new baby. The book's last section returns to the (stronger) material of parenting and ends on an intentionally mixed note: responding to a commonsensical voice that says infancy, like the pangs of childhood, eventually fade into memory, Fennelly's speaker declares, "Fine, I say, not meaning it. I'll have another." (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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: the intense baby worship, the engorged breasts, the failed attempts to move on to another topic. Finally breaking free, she forges ahead to poems about life in the Midwest (she's from Illinois) and in Mississippi, where she has been teaching; other topics include her husband, her friends, and moving. Then she's back to little Claire and the grief of an earlier miscarriage. Fennelly counters academic pretension with American spunk: "Oh, I have been to the temples of Kyoto,/ I have stood on the Pont Neuf, and my eyes, they drank it in, but my taste buds/ shuffled along in the beer line at Wrigley Field./ It was the day they gave out foam fingers." The inability to stay still permeates these poems. Fennelly observes that her name sounds like "methamphetamine"; in "Moving," she refuses to retrace her steps, even to fix a faulty sentence: "Scheming to get our security deposit back, nail holes/ are spackled with toothpaste. Oops, our modifiers/ dangle." A smart and vivacious book.-Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.