A few weeks back, our discussion in the POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM had mentioned the poetry of Rod McKuen. Another man of many talents, McKuen has several poetry collections to his credit as well as record albums of his song stylings. Rod fancied himself a singer. You may have heard his gravelly voiced rendition of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Duet with Petula Clarke) at Christmas time. But his poetry did seem to reach a higher level.

There was a level of angst to his work, drawn from his life experiences and failed relationships. He always found a way to channel any bitterness into his worded works.

Rod McKuen 1933 – 2015
by Rod McKuen

It’s nice sometimes
to open up the heart a little
and let some hurt come in.
It proves you’re still alive. 
If nothing else
it says to you -
clear as a high hill air,
as diving through cold water -
I’m here.
However wretchedly I feel, 
I feel.
I’m not sure
why we cannot shake
the old loves
from our minds.
It must be that
we build on memory
and make them more
then what they were.
And is the manufacture
just a safe device
for closing up the wall?
I do remember.
The only fuzzy circumstance 
is sometimes where and how.
Why, I know.
It happens
just because we need 
to want and to be 
wanted, too,
when love is here or gone
to lie down in the darkness 
and listen to the warm.


  1. I remember when I was a teenager listening to his poetry. “There was a level of angst to his work” is probably why I loved his work. It was dreamy, yearning, expectant, tender, and so apt for the emotional roller coaster that is youth. I can remember the background sounds of the ocean behind his words and still can feel the bitter-sweetness of that anxious, longing time. Good memories.

  2. He was 10 years older than me, and that was a lot when I was the only one of my friends who liked him, but he still wrote as if it was for me alone at that time. No lightweight, he hung some with Ginsburg and Kerouac, yet he wrote about love and with optimism, despite some truly horrendous moments in his youth. I recall telling MEG about my fondness for him when she interviewed me.

  3. Gotta confess I had all his books–bought second hand and treasured because he had a voice that seemed so real. Of course he got crucified by the “important schools of poetry at the time” for not being a real poet, so I never brought him up in course work, but he still seemed to embody the real that was what I wanted to go for (and still do)– My copy of Listen to the Warm had his picture complete with guitar and blurs of deep red and orange… what more could you ask, and I read and re-read. It was accessible when so much other “poetry” seemed so elitist.

      • Yes, Daniel. And that’s why the group assembled here is a tight consolidation of poetic brilliance. We express ourselves in the basest of terms with wonderful terminology and witticism. We are here because we feel we belong here. The reason all are welcomed here. This has become that for which we started writing poetry. Community, support, camaraderie, banter and sheer joy of these written words. I love this place and all who come to its gate.

    • Nothing to confess, Pat. I never fell for the “snooty” poets who believe poetry had to be just so. That those with a different voice or point of view were not worthy to be heard. We all have something to say. The only poetry “school” I adhere to, is the school of observation. Inspiration is everywhere and what each of us sees in a new way of looking at life. McKuen looked at life and expressed what he saw; how it felt to HIM. I do not believe a poet HAS to have a social conscience. If you have one, then good for you. I use poetry as an escape for the most part. Wherever it takes me, is where I go. I love the last line of your comment, Pat. McKuen was accessible. The simple person’s poet, the way I like to think of it.

  4. I didn’t make it out here as soon as you posted this, Walt, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Otherwise I may have not made it back for the conversation above. I couldn’t agree more with you all.

    And Candy, that is just adorable! ❤

  5. I neither read nor listened to this person, but I did think his piece was called “Listen to the Warm.”

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