cover image Unmentionables


Beth Ann Fennelly. W. W. Norton & Company, $23.95 (126pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06605-0

What happens when a child of troubled parents from the cold rural Midwest grows up, gets married, bears a son and a daughter, and settles down to writing and teaching poetry amid the abundant heat of Oxford, Mississippi? Fennelly's very likable third book of verse (she's also the author of Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother) pursues such questions with vigor and ease. ""A girl at thirty-two, who likes to think she was a rebel,"" Fennelly splits her attention between her loves and her duties at home (one poem is called ""People Ask What My Daughter Will Think of My Poems When She's 16,"") and the fertile landscape outside her door, where the ""kudzu sees a field of cotton,/ wants to be its better half,"" and the humidity (she says) encourages couples to copulate. A funny sestina shows her technical skill; an impressive sequence follows the life of the Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot, inspired by motherhood to ""paint fresh as a child sees,"" while a less impressive sequence addresses, and imitates, John Berryman, never rising above pastiche. Readers will most likely enjoy, and remember, Fennelly's most affable, and most personal work-her sweet, enthusiastic memories of good sex in many locales, the comic moments she shares with her children, and her walks around her adopted region, where William Faulkner's grave inspires her to ask ""Am I not a Southern writer now.""