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McNair is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright and Guggenheim Foundations, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in literature, two Rockefeller fellowships for creative work at the Bellagio Center in Italy, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for Creative Writers, and in 2006 a United States Artists Fellowship of $50,000 as one of "America's finest living artists." He was recently named as the 2015 recipient of the PEN New England Award for Poetry, for his latest collection, The Lost Child: Ozark Poems. Other honors include the Robert Frost Prize; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry (for Fire); the Devins Award for poetry; the Eunice Teitjens Prize from Poetry magazine; the Theodore Roethke prize from Poetry Northwest; the Pushcart Prize, and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal for his "distinguished contribution to the world of letters."
He has received five honorary degrees for literary distinction.

Wesley McNair has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress and has given readings at a wide range of colleges and universities. A television series aired over affiliates of PBS on Robert Frost for which he wrote the scripts received an Emmy Award. Featured on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition (Saturday and Sunday programs) and 22 times on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, his work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Annual, two editions of The Best American Poetry, and over 60 anthologies and textbooks. He has served four times on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.