Poetry Friday

The Tree That Used to Be

I know that many people are posting holiday poems because, heck, we are knee deep in the midst of the holiday whether we want it or not. But not me. I have to say goodbye to an old friend. When we decided to rent this house a few years ago we looked at the inside, the bedrooms, the kitchen, the coveted two bathrooms after way too many years of just one. But the Pepper tree in the front yard called to us more than almost anything on the inside. They speak of houses that have character but here it was the tree that had so many stories to tell. Stories I wished to learn.

A few months ago a big chunk of the tree cracked and fell, slowly and ever so carefully, across the front yard and into the neighbor’s. No one was hurt and no houses were damaged. Several inspections later and it was official: the tree was dying. It had barely held on to the branches that fell and more was likely to fall at any time. The tree was home to an enormous hive of bees (see this previous post http://susanwrites.livejournal.com/47675.html) and when it cracked, the bees were suddenly homeless. It took some convincing on my part to save the bees (rather than having them just killed) but after 3 trips, they were mostly all moved to a new hive. But this week, after a city hearing and permits and appeals, the tree was brought down before it could fall and cause damage. Wednesday the tree men worked all day to chop it up, pausing as they woke the opposums who ran off to hopefully find new homes. There was a ten foot hole straight down into the ground, wide enough for all to see how rotten it was, but still, watching that old tree come down was hard. Today they worked for hours to grind the stump. All that is left now is mound of sawdust waiting for something new.

I give you a quick poem on my thoughts.

THE TREE THAT USED TO BE

There used to be a treee
standing guard
100 years more
in the midst of Silicon Valley orchards
before the Silicon Valley ever existed.
Bark of varying shades of gray and black and flecks of white
leaves drifting to the ground
all year
and shade
oh so welcome shade
come summer months
we sang its praise.

There used to be a tree
in a neighborhood of homes
to children playing hide and go seek
calling “Olly Olly Oxen Free”
racing to touch base
before being named “it”.
Roots raised the ground
to a hill of tangleness
where nothing grew
but ice plant
and the occasional wildflower that found the sun.

There used to be a tree
home to roof rats
(that we battled)
and squirrels
(that the dog chased)
and a family of opossums
(that often made us smile.)
House numbers were rarely needed
because the pizza man
and so many others
knew the tree
long before we called
this house home.

But sickness comes
to people and to trees
and slowly
from the inside out
the tree began to die.

One hundred and three years is more
than I can expect
to live
yet there used to be a tree
that lived that long
just.

What stories it could tell
this tree
that used to be.

Thursday, December 21, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |11 Comments

Rhyme of Rhymes by Andrew Lang

A poem about poetics from Andrew Lang, author of the popular coloured fairy books.

RHYME OF RHYMES 

Wild on the mountain peak the wind
Repeats its old refrain,
Like ghosts of mortals who have sinned,
And fain would sin again. 

For “wind” I do not rhyme to “mind,”
Like many mortal men,
“Again” (when one reflects) ’twere kind
To rhyme as if “agen.” 

I never met a single soul
Who SPOKE of “wind” as “wined,”
And yet we use it, on the whole,
To rhyme to “find” and “blind.” 

We SAY, “Now don’t do that AGEN,”
When people give us pain;
In poetry, nine times in ten,
It rhymes to “Spain” or “Dane.” 

Oh, which are wrong or which are right?
Oh, which are right or wrong?
The sounds in prose familiar, quite,
Or those we meet in song?

To hold that “love” can rhyme to “prove”
Requires some force of will,
Yet in the ancient lyric groove
We meet them rhyming still.

This was our learned fathers’ wont
In prehistoric times,
We follow it, or if we don’t,
We oft run short of rhymes.

Andrew Lang

Friday, December 15, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |4 Comments

You Enter the Forest by Joseph Campbell

I am at a bit of crossroads with my writing, my writing career (two different things), and my life in general. A friend sent me this poem yesterday to help me remember what is important to me and how taking the easy way out is not going to help me reach my goals. It’s the sort of poem I looked for when I was in Junior High and High School; the kind I would write in every one of my notebooks and pin up on the wall in my room. Right now it is on the wall next to Mary Oliver’s JOURNEY.

You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else’s path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else’s way,
you are not going to realize
your potential.

It takes courage
to do what you want.

Other people
have a lot of plans for you.

Nobody wants you to do
what you want to do.
They want you to go on their trip…

– Joseph Campbell

Friday, December 8, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: , |17 Comments

The Journey by Mary Oliver

I am resurfacing only briefly because I don’t want to let another Poetry Friday go by without posting (even though this is a late Thursday writing.) This poem speaks to me on so many levels.  I hope to post updates soon but for now, enjoy some Mary Oliver.

THE JOURNEY

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
~ ~ ~ Mary Oliver

Friday, December 1, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: , |14 Comments

The Alligator’s Children by Cicely Fox Smith

LIfe is still a roller coaster. No time to blog or read blogs or do much of anything except try to remember how to put one foot in front of the other and get through another day. I’ll be at CSLA in Sacramento this weekend and then hoping to crash for the next week at home, on vacation, curled up on the couch with my husband, my dog, and many hours of TiVo to help me vegetate.

But Poetry Friday is a must-do.

The Alligator’s Children

The alligator is a creature
With not a single pleasing feature;
And even when it’s very small,
It is not cuddlesome at all.
With countless teeth its jaws are set.
I do not want one for a pet.

Cicely Fox Smith, 1882-1954

Friday, November 17, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |13 Comments

Seals by Dorothy Keeley Aldis

If you read my post yesterday, you know I am stuck in a painful parenting place. Once again, I turn to an animal poem to make me smile. If only we could all just bounce a ball and wiggle and jiggle and feel happy with who we are.

SEALS

The seals all flap
Their shining flips
And bounce balls on
Their nosey tips,
And beat a drum,
And catch a bar,
And wriggle with
How pleased they are.

by Dorothy Keeley Aldis
1896-1966

Friday, November 10, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |6 Comments

Frog-Making by John Bannister Tabb

FROG-MAKING

Said Frog papa to Frog mamma,
“Where is our little daughter?”
Said Frog mamma to Frog papa,
“She’s underneath the water.”

Then down the anxious father went,
And there, indeed, he found her,
A-tickling tadpoles, till they kicked
Their tails off all around her.

John Bannister Tabb
1845-1909

Friday, November 3, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |8 Comments

A Man Said to the Universe – Stephen Crane

This poetry Friday contribution sums up a lot of the conflicting feelings in me of late. ’nuff said.

A MAN SAID TO THE UNIVERSE
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/582.html

Friday, October 27, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |6 Comments

The Fly – William Oldys

The Fly
(An Anacreontick)

Busy, curious, thirsy Fly,
Gently drink, and drink as I;
Freely welcome to my Cup,
Could’st thou sip, and sip it up;
Make the most of Life you may,
Life is short and wears away.

Just alike, both mine and thine,
Hasten quick to their Decline;
Thine’s a Summer, mine’s no more,
Though repeated to threescore;
Threescore Summers when they’re gone,
Will appear as short as one.

William Oldys (1696-1761)

Friday, October 20, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |1 Comment

If you have a goal in life by Susan Polis Schultz

Susan Polis Schultz and the poetry of Blue Mountain Arts were a big part of my junior high to high school years. Like Rod McKuen, her words often went to the heart of what I was feeling (lost, broken-hearted, dreaming of something just out of reach or deeply in love with my current boyfriend or crush) My mom and I didn’t always get along and back then she didn’t understand (or I didn’t think she understood) my overwhelming obsession with words, with poetry, with telling stories on paper. Being a writer was never taken seriously as a career option; it was something you did “on the side” after your normal job as a teacher or secretary. I wanted her to understand my need to write but I feared she never would. But one year for Christmas I received this poster with a poem. It was about 24×24 and packaged against a hard piece of cardboard and shrink-wrapped to keep it from bending. It was a glimmer (for me) of hope that she understood, or was trying to understand me. For all all I know she bought it on a whim and didn’t study the verse at all but I took it to mean it was okay for me to focus on my goal of writing.

For years (and I mean YEARS) I didn’t take the plastic off. I leaned it against the bookcase in my mostly-purple bedroom so it was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing I saw at night. When I got married and moved, it went with me, getting a little bent around the edges. So off came the plastic and I had to trim a bit around the edges to fix the broken parts. Over the years, each time I moved, something got ripped or bent a little more. It was, is, by now, just a faded piece of paper reduced to about 12×12 from all my cutting around the edges. It has a home now, in a frame under glass, and sits in my office.

If you have a goal in life
that takes a lot of energy
that incurs a great deal of interest
and that is a challenge to you,
you will always look
forward to waking up to
see what the new day brings.
If you find a person in your life
that understands you completely
that shares your ideas
and that believes in everything you do,
you will always look forward to the night
because you will never be lonely.
Susan Polis Schultz
Friday, October 13, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |21 Comments

A Scientific Limerick by William S. Baring-Gould

TO HER FRIENDS SAID THE BRIGHT ONE IN CHATTER

To her friends said the Bright one in chatter,
“I have learned something new about matter:
My speed was so great,
Much increased was my weight,
Yet I failed to become any fatter!”
~~~ A. H. Reginald Buller (1874-1944)

(Note:  Mass increases with velocity in Alfred Einstein’s special theory of relativity.)

William S. Baring-Gould, The Lure of the Limerick: An Uninhibited History (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1967): 6.

A. H. Reginald Buller was an accomplished mycologist who lead the life of a bachelor professor. His is a fascinating story. Read more about The Poet-Scientist of Mushroom City. Online version of the poem was found here: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/303.html

Friday, October 6, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |6 Comments

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

In searching for a poem to share this week I came across this old friend. In my teen years, like many teens, I spent weeks upon weeks (okay probably months upon months) wavering between manic highs when everything in my world was wonderful (he likes me, he really likes me) and horrible, depressing lows when I couldn’t understand the point of getting out of bed in the morning (he dumped me, I can’t believe he really dumped me.) During those emotional roller coaster rides, this poem spoke to me loudly. I often had it copied on the inside cover of my notebook. Was I a melodramatic teen? You bet!
 

FIRE AND ICE
Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost

Friday, September 29, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |6 Comments

Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti

’tis the time of caterpillars and butterflies in my backyard so I give you this poem from Christina Rossetti. (Even though it doesn’t mention the wasps that I battle for the life of my caterpillars.)

Caterpillar

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

~Christina Rossetti

If you are not already aware of it, http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/ is a great site set up by the Library of Congress, a poem a day for high school students. Some great poems here and information about how to read poetry out loud.

Friday, September 22, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |5 Comments

The Rock

Some time ago I posted here about the evolution of the first poem in my new book, Hugging the Rock. Since the book is officially out now, I thought I would share another poem from the book. This one is called, THE ROCK, and appears at the beginning of the book on the very day that the main character’s mom runs away from home. People ask me who the “rock” is based on and like many characters in books, he is a mix of several people with healthy dashes of my imagination. I never knew my dad (but I do know that he was NOT a rock) but for the first ten years of my life I had a grandfather that I followed everywhere. He was a quiet man who never said the words “I love you” even though he showed it in many ways.

THE ROCK

Madison waits for an invitation
to jump into her usual spot
on the front seat of Mom’s car.
Mom pushes her away
but Madison doesn’t understand
and starts to bark.

Mom tells me again
my place is with Dad.
She tells me
someday I’ll understand.

I look at Dad
who is trying hard not to look at Mom
as she gets ready to drive away.
He hugs his arms close to his chest
sucks his bottom lip in over his teeth.
He wears what Mom calls his disappearing face
because when he wears it
all his feelings just disappear
and no one can tell what he’s thinking.

I go stand next to him.
I want to hold his hand and have him hold mine
but that’s not the way things work
with me and Dad.

I lean on him just a little
too much
and he steps away.
I wobble
back and forth
before I catch my balance.

Mom says he’s a rock,
the good kind you can always count on
to do the right thing.

It’s hard for me to think of a rock
as something good.
Some rocks are heavy
and make you sink.
Some rocks are too big to move.
And some rocks are sharp
and cut you
if you try to hold them in your hand.

Susan Taylor Brown
from the book Hugging the Rock
Tricycle Press, September 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday, Susan's Books, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |13 Comments

Poetry by Edwin Markham

POETRY
 
She
comes like the hush and beauty of the night,
  And sees too deep for laughter;
Her touch is a vibration and a light
  From worlds before and after.

By Edwin Markham
From Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833?1908).  An American Anthology, 1787?1900.  1900.
 

Thursday, September 7, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |2 Comments

Eliza Cook – The Sea-Child

THE SEA-CHILD

HE crawls to the cliff and plays on a brink
Where every eye but his own would shrink;
No music he hears but the billow’s noise,
And shells and weeds are his only toys.
No lullaby can the mother find
To sing him to rest like the moaning wind;
And the louder it wails and the fiercer it sweeps,
The deeper he breathes and the sounder he sleeps.

And now his wandering feet can reach
The rugged tracks of the desolate beach;
Creeping about like a Triton imp,
To find the haunts of the crab and shrimp.
He clings, with none to guide or help,
To the furthest ridge of slippery kelp;
And his bold heart glows while he stands and mocks
The seamew’s cry on the jutting rocks.

Few years have wan’d—and now he stands
Bareheaded on the shelving sands.
A boat is moor’d, but his young hands cope
Right well with the twisted cable rope;
He frees the craft, she kisses the tide;
The boy has climb’d her beaten side:
She drifts—she floats—he shouts with glee;
His soul hath claim’d its right on the sea.

’T is vain to tell him the howling breath
Rides over the waters with wreck and death:
He ’ll say there ’s more of fear and pain
On the plague-ridden earth than the storm-lash’d main.
’T would be as wise to spend thy power
In trying to lure the bee from the flower,
The lark from the sky, or the worm from the grave,
As in weaning the Sea-Child from the wave.

Eliza Cook (1812–89)

From: Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).
A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.

(I hope to resurface for regular posting later today.)

Friday, September 1, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |3 Comments

Work Without Hope by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This poem is for every writer who has a day job. Every person who has to work a job they don’t want to work but they have to, if just to pay the bills, or keep that all important medical insurance. 

We had a big layoff this week at my day job. The mood around the place is quite glum and those of us left behind, still employed, are not too sure that we were the lucky ones. 

  
WORK WITHOUT HOPE
  
ALL Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—  
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—  
And Winter, slumbering in the open air,  
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!  
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,         
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.  
 
Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,  
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.  
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,  
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!  
With lips unbrighten’d, wreathless brow, I stroll:  
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?  
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,  
And Hope without an object cannot live. 

  
Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 1772–1834
from Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Thursday, August 24, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |3 Comments

The Riot by Gamaliel Bradford

Although this poem is called The Riot I think it could just as easily be called The Writer’s Life.

The Riot

You may think my life is quiet.
I find it full of change,
An ever-varied diet,
As piquant as ’tis strange.

Wild thoughts are always flying,
Like sparks across my brain,
Now flashing out, now dying,
To kindle soon again.

Fine fancies set me thrilling,
And subtle monsters creep
Before my sight unwilling:
They even haunt my sleep.

One broad, perpetual riot
Enfolds me night and day.
You think my life is quiet?
You don’t know what you say.

Gamaliel Bradford (1863–1932)

Friday, August 18, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |5 Comments

Where My Books Go by William Butler Yeats

A small update for poetry Friday.

WHERE MY BOOKS GO

All the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken’d or starry bright. 

William Butler Yeats.
1865 – 1935

Friday, August 11, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |2 Comments

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by LeRoi Jones

When I was in 7th grade we had a project in our English class that I just loved. I think it was part of what turned me on to poetry. We were supposed to chop up bits of poems that spoke to us and then find pictures in magazines to illustrate them. I don’t remember how many pages we were supposed to turn in but I know that I went the overachieving route and turned in about 10 times more than I needed to. That’s where I first read this poem by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka ). It sums up how I feel when life is spinning out of control and then, right under your nose and where you least expect it, you get a touch of hope, and it is enough to carry on.

PREFACE TO A TWENTY VOLUME SUICIDE NOTE

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelops me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad-edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for the bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), 1961
You can read more about the poet here: http://www.amiribaraka.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Yes, many replies to your comments are still forthcoming. I’m sorry.
** Winners of the art contest to be announced soon. The delay is my fault.
*** Stay tuned for details about the Book Launch party for Hugging the Rock. If you’re close enough to get here, you’re invited. (Hint – save the date 9/27)

Thursday, August 3, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |7 Comments

On My Birthday by Matthew Prior

Happy Poetry Friday, which just happens to be my birthday too. So I went looking for a birthday poem and found one (albeit a wee bit on the heavy side). I had to share it though since this poet has the same birthday as me!

On My Birthday, July 21

I, MY dear, was born to-day—
So all my jolly comrades say:
They bring me music, wreaths, and mirth,
And ask to celebrate my birth:
Little, alas! my comrades know
That I was born to pain and woe;
To thy denial, to thy scorn,
Better I had ne’er been born:
I wish to die, even whilst I say—
‘I, my dear, was born to-day.’
I, my dear, was born to-day:
Shall I salute the rising ray,
Well-spring of all my joy and woe?
Clotilda, thou alone dost know.
Shall the wreath surround my hair?
Or shall the music please my ear?
Shall I my comrades’ mirth receive,
And bless my birth, and wish to live?
Then let me see great Venus chase
Imperious anger from thy face;
Then let me hear thee smiling say—
‘Thou, my dear, wert born to-day.’

Matthew Prior, 1664–1721
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
Someone perhaps not on your normal poetry Friday rounds is desayunoencama Make sure to check out his poem here. And I’m pretty sure kellyrfineman will have a poetry Friday post sometime during the day so don’t forget to look for it.

 

Thursday, July 20, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |25 Comments

The Germ by Ogden Nash

I don’t want to miss another poetry Friday just because I am sick. (Darn summer cold) so I share with you the cause of my current misery through the words of Ogden Nash. There’s a nice bit of biographical background on Nash here and you can read his long but humerous poem The Common Cold  here. But the cause of this darn stuffy head, swollen eyes, coughing, sneezing I can’t sleep time in my life is all because of this:

                                   THE GERM
                     A mighty creature is the germ,
                     Though smaller than the pachyderm.
                     His customary dwelling place
                     Is deep within the human race.
                     His childish pride he often pleases
                     By giving people strange diseases.
                     Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
                     You probably contain a germ.
                                                 — Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash poems and stories Copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt.

More info coming soon on a couple of contests.

Thursday, July 13, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: |7 Comments

My first poet – Rod McKuen

In honor of Poetry Friday I present my first poet, Rod McKuen. If you are twenty or thirty something, chances are you have no idea who I am talking about. That’s okay. Feel free to skip to the next blog. My feelings won’t be hurt. Besides, as you can see in this picture, I have Rod to console me after you leave.

In Junior High, back in the dark ages, a boy I liked knew how much I liked writing, especially writing poetry (see this previous Poetry Friday post) so when he saw a book of poems at a junk sale, he bought it for me. That book was LISTEN TO THE WARM by Rod McKuen. It was a small, gift-sized book about 6″ square. I read it again and again and then started haunting used bookstores for copies of his other books. He wrote about love and broken hearts but at the center of it all he wrote about being lonely and boy could I relate to that. My mom understood my obsession (even if she didn’t “get” Rod’s poetry) and she cut out clippings of interviews and news pieces about him that I saved for years and years and wish I still had but I don’t. Over the years I learned of his albums (they were these large, black things that you put on this thing called a turntable and then this needle went around and around and played a song.) I really had to hunt for those albums but I built up a complete collection which I, sadly to say, did not take with me after my New Orleans experience for the very stupid reason that I didn’t have a turntable anymore. Sigh. Some of those old albums are available on CD but not all.The albums were a mix of spoken word and songs. My favorites were the birthday concerts at Carnegie Hall.

McKuen is an award winning author and a poet. He is the recipient of both the Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman Awards for outstanding achievement in poetry, a recipient of the Brandeis University Literary Trust Prize for “continuing excellence and contributions to contemporary poetry.” And THE POWER BRIGHT & SHINING, a book in verse about America, won him the first Amendment and Freedoms Foundation Awards. (info from his website ) He is also award winning musician and you have probably heard his musical scores in some familiar movies. Oh – I can tie him to children’s literature with his soundtracks since he wrote the soundtracks for The Borrowers, A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Lisa Bright & Dark, to name just a few.

Here’s some more about his music from his website:

His film music has twice been nominated for Academy Awards (THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE & A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN). His classical works (symphonies, concertos, suites, chamber music and song cycles) are performed by leading orchestras and classical artists throughout the world. THE CITY, a suite for Narrator & Orchestra, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Music. He has received commissions for classical work from The Royal Philharmonic, The Louisville Orchestral, Edmonton Symphony and National Symphony among others. His LONESOME CITIES won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word album in 1968 against such formidable competition as “John F Kennedy: As We Remember Him” and the collected speeches of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.

What was it about Rod McKuen that kept me so connected to him over the years? The loneliness was a big part. The fact that he had never known his dad and I had never known mine made me feel like he understood where my pain was coming from. I was jealous when I found his book FINDING MY FATHER because he got to do something I would never get the chance to do, make that connection with the past. He also wrote about simple things, the sort of everyday life I could relate to, and it was in reading his books and listening to his conversations on those old albums (there’s a great story about the birth of the book STANYAN STREET AND OTHER SORROWS that I’ll share another time) that gave me hope that someone like me, someone who didn’t come from anything special could maybe write the kind of words that might really matter to someone else.

A few years ago Rod came to San Francisco to speak at the Commonwealth Club and my husband just happened to hear mention of it on the radio. He called to let me know that Rod was in town for one night, that night, and right after work we hit the freeway and the traffic and headed off to meet someone I could never in a million years imagine meeting. Rod was around 70/71 years old and yet he looked ageless, right down to his trademark hightop tennis shoes. He talked of so much writing yet to do and his quiet energy just filled the room. I don’t remember much of what he said that night when he was on stage but afterward he had time to chat and my husband dutifully kept snapping the camera. This picture is the one of the few where I wasn’t crying. I could hardly get any words out at all but Rod just put an arm around my shoulder and said in that wonderfully gravel voice of his, “It’s okay. ”

How do you thank someone for opening a door? Rod McKuen may not be an expected idol for a children’s author but it was from him that I first learned about writing with emotional honestly.

It seems appropriate to end this post with the same  line that Rod uses to end every performance.

“It doesn’t matter who you love or how you love but that you love.”

Thank you, Rod McKuen.

Thursday, June 29, 2006|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: , |20 Comments