The Lost Child:

Ozark Poems

Winner of the 2015 PEN New England Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry!

In this volume inspired by the impending death of his mother, Wesley McNair, long a poet of New England places, takes a new path, exploring her homeplace in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri. The linked poems of the book describe characters and events with the small, telling details for which McNair is noted, yet it also includes large themes: hope, delusion, family struggles, and lost selves. But the most important theme of all is reconciliation, as McNair attempts through these poems to know and understand his mother. Combining humor, sorrow, and his singular gift for narrative, this is McNair’s most ambitious and moving collection, showing yet again why Philip Levine has called him “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.”

Praise for Wesley McNair

In his book-length narrative The Lost Child, Wesley McNair harnesses the timeless power of the epic poem to tell necessary stories of our human tribe. His masterful syntax dramatizes the agony and resilience of individuals under extreme duress: poverty, loss of physical and mental capacity, isolation from community. Simultaneously, McNair s lively wit and cunning humor befriend these characters connected by blood and history and dignify the particular details that shape their tales. The colloquial music in these poems will move readers to laughter and tears. –Robin Becker, Judge for the 2015 PEN New England Awards

McNair has a gift for creating a complex tension that shows respect for the characters while including realistic detail…The book will resonate with anyone interested in a realistic representation of families and emotional bonds. The Lost Child shows humans as loving and flawed, bringing the impoverished Sykes into poetry with authenticity and kindness. Thus McNair succeeds in creating the kind of poetry that Whitman would have wanted. –Mary Siobhan Brier, Off the Coast

By the faculty of his attention—to people, to their talk—McNair’s compassion turns itself into art. – Donald Hall, The Harvard Review

[He is] a master craftsman with a remarkable ear. – Maxine Kumin, Ploughshares

He has produced one of the most individual and original bodies of work by a poet of his generation. – Ruminator Review

Often referred to as “a poet of place,” Wesley McNair captures the ordinary lives of northern New Englanders while writing about family conflict and other autobiographical subjects. His poems often explore American dreams interwoven with family drama and public culture. A New Hampshire native who has lived for many years in Mercer, Maine, McNair has authored nineteen books, nine of which are collections of poetry, including The Faces of Americans of 1853 (1983), The Town of No (1989), and Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems (2010). His most recent book are The Lost Child: Ozark Poems (2014) and The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Family and Poetry (2012).

In a review of The Ghost of You and Me (2006), Philip Levine admired McNair’s “many skewed and irresistible characters who manage to get into odd situations for which there is only one remedy: to persevere. … he strikes me as one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” Introducing McNair to readers of the Boston Review, poet Donald Hall noted both the sounds of his individual lines and the cadences of entire poems: “By speech are McNair’s people fixed in the album of McNair’s art.”

He has received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. Among his other honors are the Robert Frost Prize, the Theodore Roethke Prize, the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal for “distinguished contribution to the world of letters,” and five honorary degrees. McNair has served four times on the Pulitzer Poetry jury and was poet laureate of Maine from 2011 to 2016. A teacher for several decades, McNair is currently professor emeritus and writer in residence at the University of Maine at Farmington.