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Rod and Bruce Pivic at The Riverton Rendezvous, July 2001.
Photograph courtesy Jerry Lonn.
A Thought for Today
What is conventional in art will always
be appreciated more than genius. As the artist, that is the public’s
problem not yours.
I assumed that during the
summer the business end of my life would slack off a bit so I wasn’t quite
ready for the stack of mail that greeted my return – much of it still
unanswered and pages of phone calls – much of them still unreturned. But
it’s the mail from you I’m concerned with today, so lets get to it.
JULY IN RIVERTON
Morning Rod, After our conversation yesterday I got to thinking about your
plans for NEW stuff during September.
As you know Melinda, Linda and I wrote reports on our experiences and
thoughts about Riverton. Some of them ((Melinda's and Linda's ) were VERY
detailed. All of the comments I have received about the reports and
have been favorable and everyone thanked us for letting them in on the
I know in the past you used to write your thoughts about visiting towns
for the first time and your experiences there. (Vienna and Brighton for
Did you write anything about Riverton that you can share with us on one
day in September? Just a thought. Waterfalls, Jay
Dear Jay, As I mentioned on Saturday I plan to write about my recent time
away all through the month of September. Fortunately I keep a diary, just
as I know you do so I hope it will aid me in recalling some of the high
points of the past couple of months. I figure I can best write about them
in the course of answering mail since many of the letters that have
accumulated during my absence have asked how I spent my summer. So you can
look for bits and pieces of information in days to come. By the way I
really like the ‘illegal’ photographs you took at the concert and as you
can see Ken likes them too and has made good use of them. As ever, Rod
Note today’s photograph was shot by Jerry Lonn and shows me about to make
my first Riverton Hot air Balloon Accent with my favorite new pilot Bruce
Pivic of Rock Springs Wyoming. He calls his beautiful balloon “The
Defiance.” More about out flights in Flight Plans to come.
years ago I was really quite ill, and at night in hospital I took great
comfort in listening to your music. A friend gave me a tape and it is long
gone (actually a nurse stole it). The one poem or melody I remember though
was, ‘As we walked along the Mediterranean Sea’. Is it possible you could
tell me the name or title of this CD. As well is it still possible to
purchase it. I would love to order it. Thank you Thom Noble
Dear Thom, The album is entitled “Pastorale.” It was my first double LP
for Warner Bros. And the song you are thinking of is “Three.” It hasn’t
come out on CD yet but the LP is still available from Stanyan By Mail.
“Pastorale” is one of those albums I remember nearly everything about –
from the choice of songs to the cover David Nutter shot at Stonehenge. The
whole project was recorded in London with a full Symphony Orchestra while
I was in doing a weekly series for BBC-TV.
Those were very heady times for me and helped cement a lasting friendship
I have kept to this day with the people of the British Isles. As for
“Three,” it’s one of the most concise songs I’ve ever written. It contains
a complete short story in three verses of 24, 25 & 26 words respectively.
I’m glad you reminded me of it, since it’s time I put it back in the
current show. Kindest Regards, Rod
THROUGH THE YEARS
McKuen, Soon after my return from military service in 1968, I was exposed
to your work through several of your albums. You expressed a sense of
melancholy and whimsy that captured my interest. I loved the turn of
phrase and word pictures, e. g., "Mr. God's Trombone."
One of my former wives, of whom there have been too many, thought that my
interest was borne of self-pity. I like to think, rather, that it was a
new exploration of the range of feeling reflected in language. I've always
wanted to express to
you my appreciation for your artistry, your gift for the spoken and
I'm now retired after an education and career. There have been a spectrum
of experiences, lives and loves and I often long for the capacity to
somehow tell the stories. That must be at least part of the reason that
I've admired your work, though I haven't been near it for a while.
Perhaps I'll have the opportunity to hear you in person. I just discovered
this site tonight (August 16, 2001), 32 years since I first heard your
music. Best regards, Richard Brokaw
Dear Rick, Aw, what do former wives know anyway? Glad you hung in there
with me despite the at home peer pressure.
Now that you’ve retired from the work force (though I hope not life) maybe
you’ll find you do have the capacity to tell the stories you’d like to.
You’ll certainly have the time. Time is a friend and enemy I’ve fought
with all my life. One of the reasons I’ve committed to writing something
every day for this space is that the deadlines force me too keep my
‘chops’ in shape. Alas there isn’t time enough to sharpen and rewrite what
often ends up here the way I might like to.
At the moment I’ve got so many things on the fire – started, but
unfinished – that I’ve decided to set some priorities. Now if I can just
find time to sit down and make out the list.
Incidentally “Mr. God’s Trombones” had different words and a different
title before I heard Anita Kerr’s music to the suggested track and was
inspired to write the words that ended up being the final selection. That
happened a lot when I was writing with Anita and it’s one of the reasons I
miss working with her so much.
Next week I hope to devote a Flight Plan to The San Sebastian Strings and
if and when The Elements Trilogy and all the other SSS albums might debut
Thanks for writing, Richard. Warmly, Rod
often mention your mother in your work and sometimes in unique ways. My
own mother died when I was a little girl so I find the references to be
very stirring. Is there one particular piece that is your favorite? Thank
you, Linda C. Dougher
Dear Linda, There are so many things I’ve written that I associate with my
mother. Both the song and the book “And to Each Season” were written as a
memorial to her. Last week the chapter from “Finding My Father” about my
brother and I cleaning out the house over a Christmas weekend – much to
the consternation of Mom - was reprinted here and that always brings back
Actually every time I write something I’m particularly pleased with I’m
reminded of my mother, since she always believed in me and never lost
faith that I’d make it as a writer. Thanks for asking, Linda.
one with the masters, or I should say you always were, even before you
knew. My name is Andrew South, and I live in the west, Arizona actually,
and came upon your only site in Yahoo. I discovered your name in a chat
room, and darted to the search engine to find a site about you.
I have read the others masters, like Frost, Rimbaud, Shelley, Dickinson,
Coleridge, Donne, Shelley, I could go on and on and on. My point is that
you are among these great masters, and I feel lucky enough that you are
still alive, so that I can at least do this much by sending you an email.
I wish and wish that I could have been around when those other great poets
I am 26 and have been writing all my life, but it wasn't until about seven
years ago that I came full circle in my talent at writing poetry. I know
deeply that I am like those masters. I do not mean for this to sound
self-boasting. I pride myself in humility, but if a runner knows he is
fast, then he knows it. It's that simple really.
I'm not seeking so much an answer to a question, but rather, I am seeking
advice from someone who has been published, who has been there. Even
Dickinson shared her works with Thomas Wentworth Higginson. I also do not
mean to impose myself like this. I you want, please read this poem of
mine. It is in typical rhyme, but I made it that way on purpose. I have
much prose as well. If you have read this letter carefully, thank you, and
if not, thank you for just reading it period. Andrew South
Dear Andrew, Thanks for your thoughtful letter. It pleases me that you
like my work and it's nice to be mentioned in such exalted company. I work
hard nearly every day of my life at trying to be a better writer. It isn't
easy. but a regime of writing is as important to a writer as diet,
exercise, sleep and keeping a healthy head.
Cheval-Stanyan Books only publishes my work. I wish that I had better news
for you regarding how to go about getting your own poetry in print but
alas, after making the rounds of outside publishers recently I'm no wiser
off than I was before.
Poetry is being published but most first time poets need to have their
work printed in various periodicals first, before even the smallest
publishing house will gamble on putting out an entire book by an otherwise
unknown author. They probably figure that if you can attract an audience
in other publications first it then might be worth their while to take a
chance on you
Don't forget that in my own case I had to sell 65,000 copies of the self
published "Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows" before Random House came
calling. Even with upwards of 40 million books of my poetry in print
around the world I'm still faced with young editors at publishing houses
who don't know or give a damn who Rod McKuen is. You don't think my new
book is published by Stanyan by my own choice do you?
As part owner of Cheval-Stanyan I put out my own work because I'm a writer
and I feel I have something to say. As such I take whatever avenue I can
to reach the widest possible audience. Hence this Web site and
Cheval-Stanyan. The joke is on the publishers however, since in four
months, using only mail order and my concerts, we've sold nearly 40
thousand copies of the "A Safe Place to Land" book and double CD set. Do
the math, at $55.00 a pop that's not too bad. It must certainly be a
record for poetry and will no doubt eclipse the first year sales of
All this is not to boast but to illustrate that self-publishing can also
work. It did for Whitman, Thoreau, Poe and O'Henry among others. If you
can't or won't take that route, subscribe to (or pick up a copy at your
library) of Poets & Authors, Writer's Digest or read the yearly
publication The Writer's Market. Each lists markets and even awards and
grants for poetry by published and unpublished authors.
Do not, repeat, DO NOT pay to be published in one of those so called
'poetry contest anthologies' no one reads them except other poets who,
like you, paid for the privilege and then bought copies of the book for
themselves and friends. A nice scam for the perpetrator’s who manage to
bilk the same authors twice.
As for my reading poetry by unpublished authors, because I get so many
requests, I've made it a hard and steady rule not to read any manuscripts
- even those written by friends. Where would I stop and when would I have
time for my own writing if I started making exceptions? Another very good
reason for not reading unpublished work is that writers don't really want
criticism or an opinion, only a favorable comment.
Keep writing, Andrew, even if it's only for yourself. And keep reading the
work of published writers. The best way to become a good writer is to
write often. If you want to be published badly enough nothing or no one
can stop you. Good luck with your writing and warmest wishes, Rod
I have a
new book of poetry, Street Prayers, which has been printed by a small
company here in Florida. The book received great reviews from several
faculty members of the University of North Florida. Locally, the book has
been doing fine, but I would like to get it reviewed and perhaps published
on a larger scale. Does Stanyan accept such books and if so where could I
send a copy for review. John Hammond
Dear John, the answer to the letter preceding yours pretty much says it
all. Stanyan doesn’t have the ability to print and distribute books on a
large scale and when they fail to get my books in bookstores there’s an
advantage to having only one author bellyaching about it.
But, just because Stanyan can’t publish or review your book please don’t
be discouraged from sending in to other publishers. That you have been
published is something and it should give courage to you and to Andrew as
well. All the best wishes for your writing career now and in the future,
COME FLY WITH ME
Rod--A couple weeks ago the Rendezvous Committee called to ask if I would
like to have you fly with me on Media Day! How cool--I'm so excited! I fly
commercially for Pepsi and Budweiser for franchises here in the west!
We'll be flying in PepsiWon! I'm a teacher--this is my summer and weekends
career! Well, see you soon! Sue Crosley
Dear Sue, Sorry we didn’t get to fly together in Riverton but as least we
got to meet. I loved watching your ‘Pepsi’ balloon take off every morning
and you looked like you were having as much fun as I was flying in Bruce
Pivic’s “Defiance.” Bruce is hands down one of the best pilots I’ve ever
flown with and I look forward to many take offs and happy landings with
him in the future – just as I hope to sail off with you one day in your
‘Pepsi’ or ‘Bud.’ Smooth sailing and cheers, Rod
THE FINAL WORD
In case you missed it in the
papers, I'd like to share with you our President's stirring words on the
celebration of our freedom, the Fourth of July....or was it May? August?
"Well, it's an unimaginable honor to be the
president during the Fourth of July of this country. It means what these
words say, for starters. The great inalienable rights of our country.
blessed with such values in America. And I--it's--I'm a proud man to be
the nation based upon such wonderful values."
--Visiting the Jefferson
Memorial, Washington, D.C., July 2, 2001(source Associated Press & The New
Yorker; submitted by Joe. From Joes Blues)
Editors Note: Joe is a ‘watchdog’ & has contributed to these pages
consistently over the years. He enjoys pointing out life’s triumphs as
much as its absurdities. He sends out a now and again news letter entitled
It’s great to be back. More from the mailbag tomorrow. Sleep warm.
RM 4/28/2001 Previously
Details of Rod's next
appearance can be obtained by following the link below.
Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman