Late Wonders:

New & Selected Poems

“Wesley McNair is a kind of Chekhov of American poetry.”—Ted Kooser, Pulitzer Prize winner and U. S. Poet Laureate

With a plain-spoken tenderness, Wesley McNair’s story-like poems celebrate the dreamers and the misfits, the small but hard-earned triumphs of everyday life. This career-spanning collection brings together his very best poems from the past four decades alongside his newest poems.

Since the publication of his first book nearly forty years ago, McNair has earned a reputation as an intimate observer and a poet of place—in these lucid, far-ranging poems, he proves his empathy and sense of place are endless. “Whole lives,” wrote Donald Hall of McNair’s work, “fill small lines.” He is truly, as Philip Levine wrote, “One of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.”

Late Wonders: New & Selected Poems includes “The Long Dream of Home” the complete trilogy of McNair’s masterful, long narrative poems written over the last thirty years: “My Brother Running,” “Fire,” and “Dwellers in the House of the Lord.”

This is a collection for anyone who believes mixing a little sorrow and little comedy makes for poetry that moves the heart.

ADVANCE PRAISE 

“We live in an age of rant, or of merely clever poems written by men and women who want to be loved for being amusing. Wesley McNair, though, quietly dares to tell ‘the stories that aren’t so funny.’ His poems are populated with people who still know one another and their circumstances. He doesn’t stand outside this neighborhood of making, but is an intimate part of it. I have relied on his craft and his vision all my adult life, and still can’t get enough. Late Wonders is as close to mastery as one is likely to get in this life.”
Samuel Green, author of Disturbing the Light

“For forty years, Wesley McNair has made gorgeous, sorrowing, wise, conversational, earthborn poems, creating his own narrative idiom. To the family—poor, rural, struggling in tough economic and social circumstances—he brings compassion and humor, forging dynamic throughlines across books and poems. The poet’s evocations yield unforgettable portraits of grit and failure, courage and resilience. Lovers of McNair’s poems and those new to them will cherish this profound collection.”
Robin Becker, author of The Black Bear Inside Me

“Wesley McNair’s home-spun stories seem to turn quietly into poems as they go along. They faithfully chronicle everyday rural life while touching on all the basic human themes. Late Wonders is a generous gathering, capstone of McNair’s career in poetry, and proof that he has always been in for the long haul.”
Billy Collins, author of Whale Day: And Other Poems

“There is a heft in Wesley McNair’s work, one built of well-observed lives of ordinary people—though in these poems, no one’s life is merely ordinary. Late Wonders presents stories that contain the stuff of great literature: epic choices, dangerous compromises, as well as the tendernesses of the everyday. With a fascination for all humansfrom small town philosophers to Walmart shoppers on their scooters to Charlton Heston as Christ—McNair sets the stakes high. He asks us to consider what life doesn’t deserve attention and justice, doesn’t worry the fine line between love and despair.”
Connie Voisine, author of The Bower

“Wesley McNair asks disarmingly in this abundant retrospective, ‘Would it matter if I told you people live here?’ Because it matters—and we matter—to McNair, he has become our great poet of American tenderness and loneliness. Amidst our general silence on the wounding of class, McNair has made that wounding—his own and others’—his theme, and so given us back an America we have all but thrown away. He has done this from a ‘stubborn allegiance to the heart,’ with deep love and respect for our common story as it is and not as it’s falsified in advertising, politics, and popular culture. Early and late, Wesley McNair’s democratic and generous body of work is a wonder.”
Thomas R. Smith, author of Storm Island

“Wesley McNair writes that early in his life as a poet he ‘already sensed the importance America would have in my future work.’ Indeed, the America he so thoroughly imagines and generously shares in these striking and compassionate poems is both surprisingly familiar and unlike any to be found anywhere else in American poetry. It’s a rural America that’s often hidden from view, but in McNair’s story we find the America we all live in, one fashioned out of endless striving, sorrow, and love for what’s best and most lasting in our intimate and collective selves. Yes, finally, it’s a love story, as new and ancient as our capacity to wonder, and praise.”
Philip Schultz, author of The Wherewithal

Wesley McNair has won grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller Fellowships, two NEA grants in creative writing, and an Emmy Award. He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress and served five times on the Pulitzer jury for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He was recently selected for a United States Artists Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists.” His collection The Lost Child: Ozark Poems, won the 2015 PEN New England Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry. McNair's most recent book of poems is Dwellers in the House of the Lord.