February 5, 2015

Poetry of Rod McKuen and Me

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

This past week poet, lyricist, songwriter, actor and performer, Rod McKuen died. When I heard of his passing, I paused to think of my middle school years when I first discovered his prose. He was the first poet I voluntarily read. Not just read, but using my birthday gift money, purchased my first book of poetry, Listen to the Warm.

Frank W. Hoffmann, in Arts and Entertainment Fads, described McKuen's poetry as "tailor-made for the 1960s ... poetry with a verse that drawled in country cadences from one shapeless line to the next, carrying the rusticated innocence of a Carl Sandburg thickened by the treacle of a man who preferred to prettify the world before he described it."

It didn't matter to me that his poetry was not well received by "critics or academics." It resonated with me and my middle school self. I tried my hand at poetry, just for myself. His influence through his poetry impressed upon me the importance of words and word choices. 

Until his death, I didn't realize he was nominated for an Oscar for his song, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the title track for the Peanuts movie, as well as, Jean for the 1969 film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. What a talent who kept following his dream as it evolved with the times. His website simply put is Rod McKuen, A Safe a Place ToLand. It's worth a hop over to his website to read some of his unpublished poems.

I pulled out his Listen to the Warm book I bought in 1968 and read a favorite of McKuen's poems,
"For every star that falls to earth a new one glows.
For every dream that fades away a new one grows. 
When things are not what they would seem 
you must keep following your dream.”

It reminds me of the reason I’m following my dream to write, albeit not poetry. Because of McKuen I appreciated poetry. Have you tried your hand at poetry? Are you a Rod McKuen fan? What is your favorite of his poems?

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