Wesley McNair appointed poet laureate of Maine.
Wesley McNair doesnâ€™t need a formal title to remind him that itâ€™s important to bring poetry to the people.
But McNair, appointed by the governor to the position of Maine poet laureate Friday at a ceremony at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston, plans to wear the title with honor and keep doing what heâ€™s always done.
McNairâ€™s appointment came at the beginning of the Maine State Poetry Out Loud finals. Poetry Out Loud is a national competition for high school students, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.
See the full article written by Bob Keyes.
A sample poem:
by Wesley McNair
Once, when cigarettes meant pleasure
instead of death, before Bogart
got lung cancer and Bacall’s
voice, called “smoky,” fell
into the gravel of a lower octave,
people went to the movies just
to watch the two of them smoke.
Life was nothing but a job,
Bogart’s face told us, expressionless
except for the recurrent grimace,
then it lit up with the fire
he held in his hand and breathed
into himself with pure enjoyment
until each word he spoke afterward
had its own tail of smoke.
When he offered a cigarette
to Bacall, she looked right at him,
took it into her elegant mouth
and inhaled while its smoke curled
and tangled with his. After the show,
Just to let their hearts race and taste
what they’d seen for themselves,
the audiences felt in purses,
shirt pockets, and even inside
the sleeves of T-shirts, where packs
of cigarettes were folded, by a method
now largely forgotten. “Got a light?”
somebody would say, “Could I bum
one of yours?” never thinking
that two of the questions most
asked by Americans everywhere
would undo themselves and disappear
like the smoke that rose
between their upturned fingers,
unwanted in a new nation
of smoke-free movie theaters
malls and restaurants, where politicians
in every state take moral positions
against cigarettes so they can tax them
for their favorite projects. Just fifty years
after Bogart and Bacall, smoking
is mostly left in the hands of waitresses
huddled outside fancy inns, or old
clerks on the night shift in mini-marts,
or hard-hats from the road crew
on a coffee-break around the battered
tailgate of a sand truckâ€”all paying
on installment with every drag
for bridges and schools. Yet who else
but these, who understand tomorrow
is only more debt, and know
better than Bogart that life is work,
should be trusted with this pleasure
of the tingling breath they take today,
these cigarettes they bum and fondle,
calling them affectionate names
like “weeds” and “cancer sticks,” holding
smoke and fire between their fingers
more casually than Humphrey Bogart
and blowing it into death’s eye.
Wesley McNair Bio:
Wesley McNair (born 1941) is an American poet, writer, editor, and professor. He has authored nine collections of poetry, most recently, Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems (David R. Godine, 2010). In addition to his career in poetry, McNair has written three books of prose, including a recently completed memoir, The Words I Chose. He has also edited several anthologies of Maine writing, and most recently served as guest editor of the 2010 Pushcart Prize Annual.
According to United States Artists, an important theme in McNairâ€™s poetry reveals “the struggles of the economic misfits of northern New England, often with humor and through the use of telling details.” McNair also writes autobiographical poems that explore the difficulty of family bonds and critique American culture, sometimes mixing the two themes together, as in his long narrative piece â€œMy Brother Running,â€ in which he links his brotherâ€™s fatal heart attack after months of desperate running with the explosion of NASAâ€™s Challenger shuttle.
A New Hampshire native who has lived for many years in Mercer, Maine, McNair has earned two degrees from Middlebury College, an MA in English, and an M.Litt. in American literature. He has also studied American literature, art, and history at Dartmouth College, sponsored by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
McNair is currently professor emeritus and writer in residence at the University of Maine at Farmington.