Congratulations to Maine’s
State Poet Laureate
Three Poems by Wesley McNair
Blaine House address, April 21, 2011
The recent announcement that Wesley McNair was selected Maine’s State Poet Laureate was greeted with enthusiasm at the Turner Public Library - where, on a spring evening two years ago Wes came for a reading , and drew our crowd into his poems with his great warmth and humor and accessibility. He spoke to us, through his poems, of our own small town - of country dogs, and the taste of rhubarb, and Christmas lights left up all year. We remember how easily he moved from a lament to his vanishing hair to a pantoum about President Kennedy’s assassination and the shared experience it represented. ("We were just starting out when it happened.") He spoke to us of loss and his own beginnings as a poet, when he learned, through writing, to negotiate between the life he had and the distant things he dreamed of. And he spoke, always with affection, of ordinary people - living lives that few notice - getting by.
According to Maine Arts Commission Director Donna McNeil, McNair was the unanimous choice for the five-year post. "He is a much-loved Maine poet grounded in small town rural life. He has a distinguished career in Maine, and nationally, his poems are accessible to a wide demographic and he is one of the great storytellers in contemporary poetry."
McNair, who is 69 and lives with his wife Diane in Mercer, told us this week that his goals involve doing the work he has been doing all along. "To bring poetry to the people of Maine, I will undertake two projects in the initial year of my five-year term. The first project, beginning this fall, will be a series of readings called ‘The Maine Poetry Express,’ a ‘train’ that begins in Fort Kent, and makes it way south by way of ‘stops’ that feature poets in the various regions of Maine, from north to south and from east to west. The public will be able to follow the train’s journey online at the Maine Writers and Publisher’s website, and check out poems by poets who will appear at upcoming stops.
"My second project as Poet Laureate will start this summer and continue throughout my term. I will sponsor a new column in newspapers across Maine featuring a poem a week by a Maine poet from the present or the past. The column will not only acquaint Mainers with this state’s lively and ongoing tradition of verse, but give readers a regular source of insight and inspiration."
McNair is the author of 18 books including poetry, prose and edited anthologies. His most recent collection of poems is Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems (Godine, 2010). His most recent anthology, Maine in Four Seasons, features poems by 20 Maine poets and illustrations by Belfast artist Jan Owen. (Downeast)