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Rod McKuen

getty_rodmckuen_013015Rodney Marvin “Rod” McKuen (April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015) was an American singer-songwriter, musician and poet. He was one of the best-selling poets in the United States during the late 1960s. Throughout his career, McKuen produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. He earned two Academy Award nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his music compositions. McKuen’s translations and adaptations of the songs of Jacques Brel were instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world. His poetry deals with themes of love, the natural world and spirituality. McKuen’s songs sold over 100 million recordings worldwide, and 60 million books of his poetry were sold as well, according to the Associated Press.

Despite his popular appeal, McKuen’s work was never taken seriously by critics or academics. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

I get cranky every time I read criticism about Rod McKuen’s work. I wonder just how many people found inspiration in his easy way of poetic story telling. I did. I inhaled everything he wrote or sang. He was the first poet ever to make me cry. I’m kind of feeling in the mood for Rod tonight, so here’s an encore of part of a poem I posted almost to years ago. It’s from his book Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows. For me the first part is such a true picture of every-day, intimate relationships… They are complicated and exhausting, yet sometimes… Sometimes… It still amazes me that critiques claimed his work was much too shallow.

Stanyan Street

We try so hard to make each other frown
I sometimes wonder
if we haven’t been together much too long.
The words that work the wonders are so few
that they seem foolish anymore.

Is this a kind of loving too,
a chocolate bar that tastes good at the time
but kills the dinner later on?
Could be our appetite will go
till even memory’s not a feast.

But there are times
when you can smile in such a way
that I’d forget a ten year war
and lie down in your shadow’s shadow
and live on sounds your stomach makes.
In these brief times
I could die against your side
and never make a warning sound
content to suffocate
within the circle of your back.

At night,
though half a world away,
I still hear you sigh in several sizes.
The breathing softer when you’re satisfied.
The plip-plop body machinery back to normal.
Remembering how warm you are
and how defenseless in your sleep
never fails to make me cry.
I cannot bear the thought of you
in someone else’s arms
yet imagining you alone is sad.


Picture Source: AM 880 KIXI