My half-brother, Wesley McNair, was recently named Maine’s Poet Laureate. On any given day in any given state, this honor is remarkable. But in a state where the governor (Governor LePage, the Republican perhaps best known for telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt”) cut the inaugural poem and choral music from his inauguration celebration because he thinks these art forms are “dry”, in a state where the governor took down from a state building a state and federally funded mural depicting the history of labor in Maine because it does not show the story from employers’ side (some references made to Communism and brainwashing in alleged anonymous faxes), the act of serving as Poet Laureate can be seen as very nearly subversive.
On the surface, Wesley’s poems might look like slices of Americana, and indeed many are small moments in time experienced or observed by ordinary people. But look more closely. There is political commentary here in the celebration of lives often complicated by situations beyond their control: poverty, broken families, false celebrity, politicians, isolation, over-development of the land, commercialization, big cars, and television. Wesley McNair is no Norman Rockwell.
And that makes me proud.