RUMFORD — Wesley McNair will read from his newly released book of poetry, “The Lost Child: Ozark Poems,” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at the Rumford Public Library. The Poet Laureate of Maine, McNair is recognized nationally as a distinguished poet and writer.

“We’re honored to be the first audience — after Portland — to hear Wes McNair read from his new work,” Luke Sorensen, the Rumford library director, said. “His visit underscores the success of our Fourth Thursday Poetry program.”

Fourth Thursday Poetry began last spring, spearheaded by the late Andra Beauchesne, and other members of the Friends of the Rumford Library. At the monthly meetings, a growing number of participants of all ages and interests gather at the Rumford Library to read and discuss poetry. They come from Rumford and Mexico, Gilead, Newry, Roxbury and Bethel.

“We felt sure there are poets and poetry lovers in our communities,” Friends President Jane Shuck said. “And we were right!”

McNair is a native of northern New England and much of his work grows out of the lives of northern New England people and their “home places.” But in his new collection, McNair goes west to his family’s roots and history in the Ozark mountains of Missouri, where his mother was born and raised.

“’The Lost Child’ came out of the grief I felt before and after my mother’s death,” McNair says. “I wrote the book to reconcile with her and to remember her.” Its poems are, as always, accessible to general readers, telling stories about his mother and her people.

McNair has twice been invited to read his poems by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and has won innumerable awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Fulbright foundations, the Robert Frost prize and an Emmy Award. He was recently selected for an American Artists Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists.” Now retired from the faculty of the University of Maine at Farmington, he has taught a generation of writing students.

As Maine’s Poet Laureate, McNair is fostering initiatives that make poetry an experience for all the people of Maine through the printed word and the Internet. His current initiative is called “Written Word, Spoken Word, and Hip-Hop,” and features school visits by a team of poets that will, he hopes, “revolutionize poetry in the schools.”

“The Lost Child” will be available for sale and signing during a reception following his presentation. The Fourth Thursday Poetry program is free and open to the public. For more information, call 364-3661.

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