Maine in Four Seasons:
20 Poets Celebrate the Turning Year


In his sixth collection, Wesley McNair offers his fullest vision of human life, both its hardships and its rich possibilities. Opening with poems about growing up with family conflict in a New England of broken farms and towns, McNair explores the limits of personal wishes and American dreams. Here too are haunting encounters with ghostselves, the dead, and the gangsters in old movies; lighter fare such as a poem about the poignant hopefulness of comb-overs; and a transcendent series of lyrics that celebrate self-acceptance and the spiritual dimension of "life on the ground." Wesley McNair here gives us his strongest and most moving volume to date.

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"McNair's poems are full of people with lives like his own, like ours, ordinary lives that are incredibly unique and complex."

—Louis McKee, Library Journal

I wonder if Maine is half as interesting as the poetry Wesley McNair has written about the place. He finds so many skewed and irresistible characters who manage to get into odd situations for which there is only one remedy: to persevere. In this new collection he strikes me as one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry, a poetry which has largely given up narratives, perhaps because they require people other than the poet or in addition to the poet, a challenging task for solipsists . . . Never before have I found McNair's brand of humor so subtle and affirming. Nor when he wanders from his tales can I recall him writing such perfect small lyrics about damn near anything."

— Philip Levine, Ploughshares

"Plainspoken portraits of hardscrabble Maine men and women join laconic, trustworthy meditations on middle age, old age, mourning and love in this sixth outing from the underrated McNair (Fire, 2002). The volume opens with anecdotes and memories of nearly wasted lives: disappointed farmhands, hired men, residents of "the trailer on the way/ to the dump" and refugees from the "innocent" 1950s, as in the very quotable poem that explains "how the first/ black and white TVs made their way/ to the homes of the poor, who loved them best." The second half shifts gears, offering elegies and laments for a lost self: the titular ghosts mingle easily with sympathetic living families, and even, in the likely anthology piece "The Man He Turned Into," with the poet's hopes for his own art. McNair's unornamented American speech and his insistent, blue-collar sincerity recall Philip Levine, but McNair's real precedent lies closer to his Down East home: he is the true heir of Philip Booth, whose quiet lines have long melted New England hearts and won younger poets' warm allegiance, no matter how icy the air outside."

Publishers Weekly

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