His accolades are many, including being the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations; he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in literature, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for Creative Writers, and a United States Artists Fellowship. He has served four times on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, a testament to his ability not only to write, but also to judge others' writing. Oh, and he is the Poet Laureate of Maine (1).
Are you convinced he knows what he's doing yet? Well, instead of reading all that he's earned through his writing (only a small handful of his achievements are listed here), why not try reading one of his poems. It is not the prizes earned by the artist that you remember, but the way he makes you feel.
And McNair will certainly make you feel. Donald Hall calls McNair's art an experience in "the strangeness of the ordinary." McNair's language "is our speech observed-preserved in poetry" (2).
McNair declares in an interview, "there is the America of Britney Spears and CNN and the so-called mainstream culture, and there’s the America of those who live around us in what we call the margins of our society, though there are far more of them than the term implies" (3).
Most of us probably do not fall into the Britney Spears bracket, with our own break downs passing by mostly unnoticed, and as much as we may deny it, associate with the marginal more than we realize. McNair gives us a reason to turn away, however briefly, from mainstream culture, for a moment of quiet reflection, with his newly released The Lost Child, Ozark Poems.
Set in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri, a place far from the world we see represented in the media around us, we find a cast of characters that seem uncannily familiar: a veteran of six tours of duty who comes unraveled at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, two newlyweds who pin their dreams for the future on a long-haul semi, and Ruth, confused in her aging mind - abducted by aliens. Through it all runs a theme of reconciliation, providing comfort and humor, forces that penetrate through the sorrow conveyed by McNair as he copes with the loss of his mother.
This collection of poetry follows many others, most recently Lovers of the Lost (2010) and The Ghosts of You and Me (2006), both published by David R. Godine. See our website for more information and to order: www.godine.com.