KWH Pick of the Week: “Poem Not To Be Read At Your Wedding” by Beth Ann Fennelly, Chosen by Brian Oliu

Posted on September 10, 2012


Knox Writers’ House Contributor’s Pick of the Week 9/10/2012

Poem Not To Be Read At Your Wedding by Beth Ann Fennelly in Oxford, MS

Chosen by Brian Oliu in Tuscaloosa, AL who says:

Whenever I am asked to list my most inspirational & favorite authors,
it will take me a while to get to a male name: my early writing
mentors were all women, & so I was graciously exposed to a great deal
of female writers during my formative years. When I think of the
classics, Didion comes to mind before Vonnegut, Moore before Eliot. I
consider myself a lyric essayist above all else: my writing must have
some element of truth to it–but above that, there must be a risk in
telling that truth; to feel as if I am letting my readers in on a
secret that I am not ready to admit just yet. This is what I find
beautiful in others’ writing–the telling without telling, the quiet
moments that let us know that something is important. These silent
truths are beautifully crafted in female writers moreso than males:
perhaps the braggadocio of ‘male writing’ means that all declarations
are not a surprise, that men are supposed to be boastful, supposed to
be orated from a pulpit made of oak that our grandfathers made with
their hands. If male writing is an air-raid, female writing is a piece
of piano wire on a soft neck: subtle & poetic & lord knows the steps
taken to get there–the waiting outside, the unlocking of the door,
the quiet creep. For me, Beth Ann Fennelly is the perfect example of
this; the writer I wish I could write like, the combination of words
that crush in their simplicity, their tactfulness, their fun in
knowing, their bravery in telling: the cat that knows the mouse’s
doom. These moments come in Beth Ann Fennelly’s writing fast and
furious, quiet with a quickness: we start with a full admission, of
words getting caught in our throats, of the power that is held in our
language–that with a few swift words one could ruin a wedding, can
make everyone in tuxedos & lace rethink the whole ordeal. Fennelly’s
work is beautiful in the sense that it can devastate: a snap of a
finger & the whole room will have their hearts open & salt pouring in
the open cavity, the breath sucked out while someone whispers ‘damn’.
And yet there is reserve in the telling: not because of weakness, but
because of strength & grace–that this poem should NOT be read at your
wedding, that the bite will cut you clean in half.

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