January 27, 2013

This poet's life

Wesley McNair's new memoir charts the writer's course from demanding childhood to recognition as a leading poetic voice of his generation and Maine's poet laureate.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Wesley McNair, at home in Mercer, this week releases “The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Family and Poetry.”

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Wesley McNair with his new memoir.

Additional Photos Below


WESLEY McNAIR will read from "The Words I Chose" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Portland Public Library and at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington.

But still, the brutal honesty of the memoir took him aback.

"It's such an honest portrait of his life and the struggles and the successes, and just trying to make art out of hard things. I really appreciated it on that level," Fay-LeBlanc said. "It did surprise me a little bit. Well, it did and it didn't -- Wes is not afraid to say things in his poetry, but in its nature, poetry holds things back and makes us read between the lines."

McNair took the title of his book from a line in an early poem, "How I Became a Poet."

In the poem, he describes how, at age 8, he made a picture of his father, drawing his face in the center of a poster as a bad guy with comic-book whiskers. He put the word "Wanted" at the bottom.

His father had left the family a year earlier, and the word "wanted" worked on two levels. The word accused his father of leaving, and also expressed McNair's yearning to have him back in his life.

As an adult looking back at that event and seeing how that word shifted between meanings, McNair saw that childhood gesture as his first attempt at poetry. At that young age, he turned to words -- or this case, a single word -- as a way to express his feelings about his broken family and his broken world.

McNair tells that story to begin his memoir. It seemed like a perfect way to begin, he says.

"I am a mender of broken things, like all artists. Given my childhood and my youth, I had a lot of mending to do," he says.

"Every artist's awareness comes out of a general sense of imperfection and the condition of brokenness. The world is a broken place, and we are all broken in it. Through our art, we find ways to mend it. For me, the mending is done with words -- the words I choose."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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Additional Photos

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Wesley McNair at home in Mercer with his dogs Gus, left, and Rosie.


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