Follow-Up Questions to “My Life as a Poet”

1.  Did any parts of this story contradict your notion of what a poet’s or writer’s life is like? Which parts, and in what ways?

2.  In your view, what were the most important experiences in McNair’s formation as a poet?

3.  In what ways did Wesley McNair’s family background contribute to his development as a poet?

4.  How do the poems titled “After My Stepfather’s Death,” “Shovels,” “The Good-Boy Suit,” and “How I Became a Poet” (all available in the book Lovers of the Lost) relate to the hardships of McNair’s childhood, and what insights about those hardships have the poems led him to?

5.  How do the poems titled “The Last Time Shorty Towers Fetched the Cows,” “Mute,” and “Ghosts” (all available in the book Lovers of the Lost) relate to McNair’s experience as a teenager working on his stepfather’s farm and the Kuhre farm in the Connecticut River Valley? In the conclusion of his poem “Kuhre’s Farm,” what insights does he convey about the farm in the history of his region, and what thoughts does he convey about the farm’s influence on his own life?

6.  What aspects of the poems titled “Hair on Television,” “The Before People,” “Smoking,” and “The Last Black and White TV” relate to McNair’s life experience, and what do they say about the values of American life?

7.  What are the books McNair completed before his first published book, and how did each contribute to his development as a poet?

8.  In what ways do the poems McNair completed when he was seventeen anticipate his work as a poet, in their content or approach?

9.  In what specific ways did Donald Hall help McNair as a mentor? How did he shed light on the life of a poet in his long letter of encouragement that McNair quoted?

10.  Explain McNair’s process of writing a poem. In what ways does that process adjust your previous notion of the way poets work?

11.  In the summary of his work, McNair referred to his poems that reveal the mystery of common things. Choose a few poems that illustrate this theme and explain your choices.

12. What are the most important lessons about the writer’s life that you take away from this presentation?