Beth Ann Fennelly

Mississippi poet laureate and University of Mississippi professor Beth Ann Fennelly signs her newest book, “Heating and Cooling,” at Turnrow Book Co. on Wednesday.

Kathryn Eastburn

Mississippi’s poet laureate, Beth Ann Fennelly, was at Turnrow Book Co. on Wednesday signing and reading from her latest collection, “Heating and Cooling.”

The slim volume contains 52 individual mini-memoirs, a term coined by Fennelly for the brief, tightly compressed true-life stories that make up the book.

Fennelly said that she was preparing to write a novel but these small memories kept coming out instead.

“I kept writing these small snippets, waiting for them to add up to something,” she said. “So I came up with this term micro-memoir and learned how to write them.”

Fennelly said she loves the compressed lyrical power of poems, but she also admires the craft of writing creative nonfiction, which she teaches at the University of Mississippi.

“In writing creative nonfiction, it’s important to hew to what actually happened,” she said. “You look at the welter of all that has happened to you — this thing, this thing and this thing that, put together, made you who you are.”

Brightly dressed in a pink angora sweater and pink pom-pom tennis shoes, her waist-length auburn hair swaying, Fennelly graciously entertained those gathered to hear her read, reciting some of the pieces from memory.

The first one in the book, “Married Love,” and several others refer to Fennelly’s husband, novelist Tom Franklin, also a professor at Ole Miss, with whom she collaborated on their most recent novel, “The Tilted World,” about the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River.

Fennelly said she has learned to allow humor to emerge in her work, a strong presence in this book that ranges from tender to bawdy in its content.

“Heating and Cooling” has received notable praise from critics as well as from Fennelly’s contemporaries. Novelist Ann Patchett said, “Each entry is both insightful and precise, a perfect pearl of memory. ... she draws a portrait of a life that is deeply felt and fully awake.”

Mississippi novelist Richard Ford, a Pulitzer Prize winner, said, “I wish I’d written it. ‘Heating and Cooling’ is just that enviable.”

Fennelly, who lives in Oxford, was named the state’s poet laureate by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016 and is serving a four-year term in that role.

•Contact Kathryn Eastburn at 581-7235 or keastburn@gwcommonwealth.com.

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