Wesley McNair at The Social Distance Reading Series
In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.
“There is so much life in this beautiful book that it feels like a living thing. Wesley McNair is a kind of Chekhov of American poetry.
– Ted Kooser
“One of the great storytellers of American poetry.”
– Philip Levine
How do you begin a new piece of writing?
I explore a memory or event or feeling with a tablet in my hand taking notes. My one rule is not to write a sentence – only fragments. Later I return to what I’ve written to see where the hot spots are.
What conditions help your writing process?
Private time in the morning; being in a homeplace (my kitchen, the writing cabin near my camp); coffee.
What was an early experience that taught you language has power?
After my father left, when I was perhaps eight, I drew a wanted poster with his face on it and at the bottom wrote the word “Wanted,” showing it to my mother. Through the double meaning of that word, through which I accused my father, pleasing my mother, and at the same time said that I missed him, I became a poet. That single word was my first poem.
What poets or writers do you go back to?
Today my list would be James Wright, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Theodore Roethke, W.C. Williams, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, John Keats, Dickinson, Dickinson, Dickinson.
Catcher in the Rye made a big impression on me.
What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?
(I limit my response to the preparation of this Social Distance Reading, which has turned distance into closeness.)
Giving this reading from my home to others, one by one, in their homes, has allowed me to share my writing in poetry’s old way. Mary Oliver once called poetry an intimate conversation. That’s exactly what I feel has happened here.
Where can we reach you? Link to your blog or website.
The Social Distance Reading Series
Brought to you by The Vermont School and Green Mountains Review
We’re thrilled to host The Social Distance Reading Series, a collaboration between Green Mountains Review and The Vermont School poets. In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. At this point, we are focusing on collections by poets whose book events have been cancelled between January through May 2020.
Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.
–Didi Jackson, Major Jackson, Kerrin McCadden, and Elizabeth Powell, series curators.
–Kylie Gellatly, editorial assistant, interviewer.