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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2003

Poet, assistant professor Fennelly reads at Library of Congress, on ‘Voice of America’

March 10, 2003

By Deidra Jackson
University of Mississippi News Services

OXFORD, Miss. — Award-winning poet Beth Ann Fennelly, a University of Mississippi assistant professor of English, read her work March 5 at the Library of Congress.

She also read her work during a March 6 interview on government-sponsored Voice of America, an international broadcasting service, which weekly airs more than 1,000 hours of news, educational and cultural programs to some 94 million people worldwide.

“This marks poet Beth Ann Fennelly’s elevation to national status—the elders of American poetry, so to speak, have identified her as one of the next generation of major voices,” said Joseph Urgo, UM Department of English chair. “We in the English department made that identification when we hired her, but it takes time for Mississippi literary news to reach the (nation’s) capital.”

Fennelly joins the ranks of such poets as Robert Pinsky, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, W.S. Merwin and Gwendolyn Brooks who have read for the program. The library’s Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature contains recordings of more than 2,000 poets.

“I feel so honored to be selected,” said Fennelly, whose book Open House won the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry for a First Book.

Earlier this year, the Lake Forest, Ill., native won a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant and soon after struck a deal with New York independent publishing house W.W. Norton & Co. for her second book of poetry. And in another fortuitous career boost, her lengthy poem “Telling the Gospel Truth” appears in The Kenyon Review, which publishes works by talented emerging writers alongside more established writers.

Reading with Fennelly March 5 was Linda Gregerson, a widely published poet whose work Fennelly said she has admired for a long time. “Reading with Ms. Gregerson in front of the audience at the Library of Congress will be an honor I don't expect to duplicate or forget,” she said.

Fennelly taught at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., for two years before coming to UM to teach poetry and literary studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1993 and then taught English in a coal mining village on the Czech-Polish border. In 1994, she returned to the United States to earn a master of fine arts in poetry from the University of Arkansas. She held the University of Wisconsin’s prestigious Diane Middlebrook Fellowship in Poetry from 1998-99.

Fennelly’s poems have been published in numerous literary reviews, and her poetry has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize 2001: Best of the Small Presses and Poets of the New Century.

Her “Poem Not to Be Read at Your Wedding” was in Best American Poetry 1996, Penguin’s Book of the Sonnet and the writing textbook 13 Ways of Looking for a Poem.

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