Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rod McKuen and poetic snobbery.

Sad to read about the passing of poet/musician Rod McKuen, who successfully crossed over to mainstream audiences in the 1960s via albums with backing from the Anita Kerr Singers. McKuen reading his poem "The Sea."

Now, the floor will be turned over to New England-by-way-of-Orange County poet Victor Infante, who found a way to diminish McKuen (an acquired taste, if one remembers his song score for A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN, but someone who lived in an era when spoken-word recordings on major labels were a little more acceptable than now) in the context of eulogizing Maya Angelou last year in the litizine RADIUS:

When Maya Angelou died Wednesday, I told a story to my co-workers that I don’t think I’ve ever told before: That in my early teens, I read my way through the Laguna Beach Public Library’s poetry section. In retrospect, it wasn’t a very large section, not in the early to mid ’80s, but I would sit on the floor near the section and just read, sometimes flying through two or three books at a time.
This was my first exposure to numerous poets: Ginsberg, Byron, Shelley, Eliot, cummings, Plath .. and yeah, Rod McKuen. Some of the poems I loved because I could easily understand them – such as McKuen – and some of them I loved because they were totally opaque to me, because I thought that was cool. Thankfully, I grew out of both opinions eventually, although I should note I keep a McKuen poem pinned to the inside cover of one of my poetry notebooks. Just because.

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