Wes McNair Final

2014 photo by Doug Bruns for the Writers Portrait Project, taken at McNair’s home in Mercer.

Wesley McNair was born 19 June 1941 in Newport N.H. He received a B.A. degree (English) from Keene State College in 1963; an M.A. degree (English) from the Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College, in 1968; and an advanced master’s degree at Bread Loaf (M.Litt. in American Literature) in 1975.

Poet Philip Levine has called Wesley McNair “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” He is the author of nine volumes of poems and twenty-one books, including poetry, nonfiction, and edited anthologies. McNair has held grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller grants for study at the Bellagio Center in Italy, and two NEA fellowships. He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress, and has served four times on the Pulitzer jury for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Other honors include the Eunice Tietjens prize from Poetry magazine, the Theodore Roethke Prize, an Emmy Award, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal for his “distinguished contribution to the world of letters,” a United States Artist Fellowship, and the 2015 PEN New England Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry. His poems have been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition (Saturday and Sunday programs) and twenty-two times on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in the Pushcart Prize annual (for which he served as a poetry editor in 2010), The Best American Poetry, and over sixty anthologies and textbooks. His most recent books are The Lost Child: Ozark Poems (2014), The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Family and Poetry (2013); and Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems (2010). A new collection, The Unfastening, will appear in the spring of 2017.

As an educator McNair has been a teacher at the Hillsboro and the New London Central High Schools (N.H., 1963-1968); a visiting professor at Dartmouth College (1984); and a professor of English at Colby-Sawyer College (1968-1987), where he founded the American Studies program. As a professor at the University of Maine at Farmington from 1987 until his retirement in 2004, he founded and directed the Creative Writing program. He also taught at Colby College as a visiting professor from 1999 to 2004. Post-retirement, McNair has served as Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at UMF and as the Poet Laureate of Maine (2011-2016).


The core collection, acquired in March 2006, and annual accruals document McNair’s early life as well as his college and professional years. Materials include:

  •       Scrapbooks, photographs, family letters, clippings and ephemera 
  •       Early writings (elementary through high school) 
  •       Notebooks with graduate school writings, teaching notes and poem drafts
  •       Manuscript drafts, first appearances, and audio/visual recordings
  •       Extensive correspondence with Maine Times colleagues, mentor Donald Hall and other literary peers