Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Notes On Maxwell C. Wheat Jr – Part 2

On Halloween night, Max not only handed out candy to trick or treaters, he gave and read them  a poem.

Max wrote Nature articles for Newsday for 15 years.

Max conducted Taproot Workshops for two decades.

Was an English teacher in the Farmingdale School district Middle School.

He was a tough disciplinarian. “Don’t think, just write.” is what he said to kids who couldn’t get started.

He was a member of the Tourism Long Island Advisory Committee. He worked hard to include nature areas on Long Island as tourist destinations.

A memorial brick will be placed in his honor at the Walt Whitman Birthplace which reads: MAX WHEAT; FAMILY MAN; YOU CAN WRITE A POEM; FIRST NASSAU LAUREATE

He ran a poetry workshop at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park and the Hempstead Plains for 7 years.

He was a member of the New York State Outdoor Education Association and  tried to encourage the use of poetry as a way to express the natural world.

He was a member of the NYS Federation of Bird Clubs. His poems were published in their newsletter.

He was an active member of the Friends of Long Island Heritage.

He and Virginia spent several weeks summer camping at Acadia National Park.

He read one of his poems at the monthly meetings of the South Shore Audubon Society in Freeport

He was on the board of trustees of the NYS Walt Whitman Birthplace Historic Site.

He always prepared a written introduction before he gave a poetry reading because he experienced slight anxiety in front of audiences and felt more comfortable with a script.

He believed that poetry is an environmental force and a force for peace

He and Virginia attended many Peace demonstrations.

His reporting job in his Home town of Geneva carried over into his poetry. He encouraged the use of details in poetry. He was a stickler for detail and fact checked everything.

He critiqued my poetry for over 20 years and encouraged me to create a book of poems about the Pine Barrens. His method of critique was to praise first, then offer points where he considered the poem had an “issues.”

Here are come of his comments:  good; great phrase; there’s good writing here; great action writing; nice detail; interesting poem; good stanza; it is very timely, do a rewrite; nice ending; ggood statement; this is a different diction from the rest of the poem; common phrase; use fresh phrase; you can cut; you already said this; awkward; this doesn’t seem to ring true; you are giving it away; go general; I’m against “very”; cliche adjective; needs a couple of examples; somehow this word is not right; seems a weak word; redundant; get the males in otherwise this is sexist

His religious leaning was toward the Anglican Church. Virginia and He took the LIRR to Manhattan to attend services at an Anglican Church

He corresponded with anyone and everyone who communicated with him.

I saved all his correspondence. All was encouraging. I felt like he adopted me, took me under his wing. Frequently he said “Let me proof read before you send it out.”

His “man cave” – aka workroom/library, was located in the rear of their house at 333 Bedell Street, Freeport. He had shelves packed with loose leaf binders and briefcases stuffed with papers. Late at night and into the early morning, I’d see him cutting clippings from the New York Times and Newsday. They went into binders. He always carried a notebook. He took frequent catnaps and seemed to always be on a 24 hour cycle.

He made frequent trips to Staples to make copies. He always had handouts. He frequently lost these handouts and the crisis eventually petered out. He lost everything after Hurricane Sandy.

His definition of tradition:  “ Something you can’t get rid of.”

He read lots of poets. William Stafford, Carl Sandberg, Thomas Merton, Song of Soloman, Mary Oliver, Donald Hall, and many others.

He took a theology class with the bishop of the Theological Seminary in Garden City.

He was into words or combinations of words that express the inexpressible

He used lines from other poets that were examples of “fresh language.” He was the master of fresh language. In almost every one of his poems you’ll find them.

He said “Prose communicates, poetry affects.”  “Poetry isn’t about meaning, it’s about language.”

Max and Virginia had a miniature Pekingese dog named Calli Lora. He was always checking on the dog when it got loose. He was deeply affected when Kali Laura died. Kali Laura was a gift from his granddaughter.

Sign on the back of the door in their bedroom “ Male supremacy is a phallacy.”

Max rated martinis from 1-4

“Cedermere is my literary home”. He was a driving force in getting it up and running. He conducted poet ry readings there.

Their granddaughter Dewey visited for an extended time and often cooked breakfast for the couple.

Hanging on the wall in their Freeport house, collages of the family done by Dede and Emily.

Max was a writer for a boat magazine in Manhattan and he hated it.

Max and Virginia moved to Queens from Manhattan then moved to Freeport when he got a job at Farmingdale School District. Virginia and Max raised three daughters there.

He and Virginia often went to West Park to visit Holy Cross Anglican Monastery. There they also attended walks at the John Burroughs Sanctuary.

Max kept beer in his fridge. Often we’d have a beer and talk poetry in the afternoon. Max had a rare blood type, bad teeth, and couldn’t fix anything.

During the summer, he wore short sleeved shirts exclusively. They hung on a rod above the bathtub to dry.

He told me that he was just like his dad, a reporter who fact checked several times over. His dad lived on a sail boat in Florida.

“I’m in poetry for the money.”  His joke.

He presented a paper titled “Poetry as a Force for the Environment in Boston for the Association of Literature Teachers.

He got a huge volume of mail every day. He belonged to many organizations.

He attended a great books discussion group at the Freeport Library.

He was paid by an aging doctor in Port Washington to help him write his memoirs.

He was a tutor for a neighbor who wanted help in order to run for a political office.

Max had an upright piano and often played a song or two daily.

Compiled by Tom Stock with respect and admiration of his friend Max




Pumpkin Story


  1. Emilie Wheat

    In it for the money…….. one of his favorite lines 🙂
    I miss him so much Tom

  2. John Williams

    Hi Tom! I just found this… nice page for you. I was thinking of Max, had the good fortune to know him for a while in the 1990s, liked him a lot. Jay Williams

    • Hello Jay,

      I loved Max and tried to copy his writing style and did so for a decade after evolving My voice. I hope you are well and creative.

  3. Hello Tom-
    After Max Wheat passed away I sent a testimonial to you on this site. I was wondering if you could send it to the LI Fringe Group as they want to display a tribute to him.
    Thank you-
    Rosemary McKinley
    one of his Taproot writers

  4. Tom Stock

    Tom Stock

    hello Rosemary,
    I’ll be glad to send you a snail mail copy of Max memoir.

    tom stock

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