New State Poet Laureate Named

March 11, 2011

Augusta, Maine – Governor Paul LePage announced today Maine’s new State Poet Laureate. Wesley McNair accepted the honor Friday evening at the Poetry Out Loud State Finals at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston.

McNair, of Mercer, is the author of eighteen books. The works include poetry, prose and edited anthologies. His most recent collection of poems is Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems (Godine, 2010).

Earlier this year, the Maine Arts Commission sent out a call for nominations for the Poet Laureate post. Twelve nominations were received. Director of the Maine Arts Commission Donna McNeil says a panel met and unanimously voted for Wesley McNair. “He is a much loved Maine poet grounded in small town rural life,” said McNeil. “He has a distinguished career in Maine and nationally, his poems are accessible to a wide demographic and he is one of the great storytellers in contemporary poetry.”

“It is clear that the Maine Arts Commission has selected one of Maine’s finest writers and it is my pleasure to honor Mr. McNair as State Poet Laureate,” Governor LePage said. “There is a sense of Maine that is captured in his writings, from the names of towns and the presentation of our way of life. We should all be grateful that Mr. McNair has been sharing his work with us over the years.

McNair is currently Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine at Farmington. McNair has also directed the Creative Writing Program and received the Distinguished Faculty Award and the Libra Professorship.

The State Poet Laureate is appointed for a 5-year term and may be reappointed for a second term.

About Maine Poetry Out Loud: Wesley McNair is a judge at the Maine Poetry Out Loud Competition, which began with 8,500 students taking part in 45 high schools across all of Maine. These students compete in three rounds of recitation in front of a live audience to be selected to go onto Washington, DC to compete for a share of $50,000 in scholarships. One high school student will be chosen to represent Maine nationally.

Poetry Out Loud is a program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. During the early part of the year, schools are invited to participate in classroom and school-wide contests, advancing to a state competition on March 11. State champions will advance to the National Finals, to take place on April 28-29, 2011, in Washington, DC.