FLIGHTS FROM THE PAST
January 15, 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Thought for Today

God works in moments not days years or decades, and so a millennium is just another way of telling time for us, not him.

 

No week passes that I don't receive a letter or two from a student or students who are putting together a report on me as a school assignment. I'm much indebted to individual teachers for these assignments and parents who have passed my poetry onto their youngsters.

I take all these requests very seriously and this site provides more than enough opportunities for research into my life and work. Still, once in awhile along comes a letter that stumps me.

WELL, IT'S ABOUT THIS WHALE, WHAIL . . .WAIL

hey Rod Mckuen! wasssup i was browsing through your official website because i have a research paper to do about you and your poetry so i was wondering if u could help me out a little

first of all i wanted to you what your book "in some's shadow" was all about..i know its a love poem but whats it about ( why did u write it ) and "listen to the warm" too???

and why do u like writing love and music poetry?

thanks alot for your help, appreciate it!

take care-KAVITA (AKA "CraZee GuRL")

ps: lookin forward to hearing from you :)



Dear Kavita (AKA "CraZee GuRL"), Very soon in life you will learn that for some things there are just no answers. I am afraid the questions in your letter fall into that category.

Good luck on your grade but might I suggest that instead of a paper on Rod McKuen you might analyze the work of A. Nonny Muss; in particular his seminal poem "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Warmly, Rod

GUARDIAN ANGELS

Dear Rod, Every time I think I have a fix on what it is that Rod McKuen is and does along comes something that seems to knock it all haywire. 

For Christmas I was given your instrumental album "Music for Guardian Angels." It has quickly become my all time favorite McKuen work. The music is beautiful and calming and the poem you and Claudette Colbert read together is terrific. What is the story behind this album and the poem? George Clooney


Dear George, With pride I have to say "Music for Guardian Angels" is one of my favorite albums too. Like "The Sea" it seems to have taken on a life of it's own. With only word of mouth and no advertising it has remained near the top of Stanyan By Mail's best-seller list since they reopened for business.

Here are some rather disjointed details on the album and poems origin.

I wrote "To Love is to Lie Down With the Angels" in 1969 as a present for Claudette, while she was recording selections from "The Little Prince" for me. She read it into a portable tape recorder I had taken to the house in Beverly Hills where she was a guest (she had moved from California many years earlier and was visiting from her home in the Bahamas.)

I forgot about the recording and only rediscovered it 26 years later when I was putting together "Music for Guardian Angels." I added music to her track and read another verse myself and the results became the "To Love is to Lie Down With the Angels" track. 

Larry Baillie is one of the nicest and most considerate people I know -- that I don't know. That is to say we've been pen pals over the years, but never met. He also has a large collection of McKuen memorabilia. In fact I didn't have a copy of the original  ". . . and autumn came" from the 1950's and Larry dug up one and sent it to me as a gift.

As the result of an auction of personal property belonging to the late Claudette Colbert he was able to purchase the original manuscript of the poem and it is reproduced above. It was done on a shirt cardboard, as many of my poems are.

The other selections on the album are taken from classical works of mine composed over the years.

Thanks for the letter and the kind words, George, below are two versions of the poem. Affectionately, Rod.

PS: I still think "Wherefore Art Thou, Brother" contains your most offbeat performance. Very funny and with great heart. 

To Love is to Lie Down With the Angels
For Claudette Colbert 

(Original version)

To love is to lie down with the angels,
            to wake up smiling in a frowning world
To be extra ordinary for a time.

And so I have gone through my life loving
because I will always want to walk with angels.

And If you see me and I'm smiling
they will be love smiles
because I will always want to walk with angels

Isn't it a wonder
the wisdom you pick up
just by listening to the people you care about,
just by sharing their smiles.

If you see me and I am smiling
they will be love smiles
because I will always want to walk with angels.

To love is to lie down with the angels.

               
- from the CD "Music for Guardian Angels, "1995

To Love is to Lie Down With the Angels
For Claudette Colbert

(Revised print version)

To love is to lie down with the angels,
            to wake up smiling in a frowning world
To be extra ordinary for a time.

And so I have gone through my life smiling 
because I will always want to walk with angels.

There are some drums that sound so loud
They'd frighten anyone -
             The trick is to augment the drums
              with crickets.

If the crickets of the world would band together
They'd drown out all the drummers everywhere.

Angels seldom make a sound
when they lie down to sleep
            or else they save their drumming
                        for the morning.

I haven't heard them
for in the morning I am always making ready
                      for the night.

            
-from "The Rod McKuen Animal Concern Calendar 1969" 

SONGS AND POEMS

Recently on the Message Center Board Ann sent in the lyrics to "It's Raining" from the Lonesome Cities Book. I, on the other hand, have never read the books and only know "It's Raining" from the Listen to the Warm album. The two aren't even remotely alike.

Obviously you wrote more than one poem called "It's Raining." Sometimes over the years I've found the same poem but different versions in print and on record.

Did you do this a lot? Isn't this like Sinatra singing two different songs called "Ring a Ding Ding" and isn't it confusing to fans and to you? (Actually I think the only time FS did this was with two different songs called "Talk to Me".)

Got my tickets to Aurora. Coincidentally, I think Sinatra opened the Paramount Arts Theater. Jack Goodwin


Dear Jack, Thanks for the interesting question (I must say I hate that line when politicians use it as an obvious stall for an answer - but here it's apt.) The authors of the confusion in this case are two people. One being Ann the other a guy named Jack Goodwin.

1. I have never written a poem entitled "It's Raining." You are referring to "TWENTY-FIVE (often called "The Coming of the Rain" from page 40 of "Listen To The Warm."

2. I have written a song entitled "It's Raining" which Ann found on page 103 of "Lonesome Cities," in a section clearly entitled "Thirteen Songs."

3. Listen to track 8 of the "Listen to the Warm" CD again and you'll find the song immediately follows the poem (in fact, they are together on one track. They have been married and for 33 years have continued to be faithful to each other. I arbitrarily named the track after the song.

It's kind of frustrating, Jack, but short of shouting it from the rooftops I don't know how to get people to separate my poems from my songs, despite the fact that in every book I've written lyrics to songs always appear in sections labeled as such.

Thanks for the information about FS opening The Paramount Theatre. I'll try to remember to dedicate something to his memory the night I appear there. 

I'm delighted that you'll be coming to the Aurora Concert since I've enjoyed your postings, particularly on the Sinatra Board, for years. By the way somewhere around the house I have a rehearsal tape of Frank performing "The Coming of the Rain" & "It's Raining" done around the time he was recording the sessions for "A Man Alone." Sincerely, Rod

WEST WING

 I have to say I am hooked on The West Wing..... BRILLIANT writing, exemplary performances.....

One may choose to damn television for 90% of its content, but faced with drama as good as this ( far better than the average movie these days) writers can't help but want to strive for excellence. I am hooked! Hope you find time to watch it. Love, Coral

Dear Coral I agree about West Wing and apparently we're not alone. The ratings on this excellent show continue to rise. My favorite network show continues to be "Law & Order." And "Law & Order, SVU." I particularly enjoy the acting of S. Epatha Merkerson. Love Diane Weist, but miss Steven Hill.

Have "Ed," "Ally McBeal," "The Practice," "Family Law," "Boston Public" or "Judging Amy" started running in Oz yet? All are well written, beautifully acted and directed shows.

Speaking of Oz, a cable show entitled "Oz" (about life in a maximum-security prison) is the best thing on American cable. Even better than "The Sopranos" and that's saying something.
The plot lines and ensemble acting are first rate on "Oz" and every episode of it is involving and full of surprises. I can't understand why it continues to be ignored by The Television Academy and The Ace Awards. Christopher Mioni has every actors dream by playing a villain in "Oz" and a Mr. Nice Guy in "Law & Order, SVU," He plays both to perfection. As ever, Rod

[Note: The writer of the above letter is herself a top producer and writer of series television in Australia.]

WRITING

A friend recently challenged me to write after 20 years of silence. i had never told this 16-year-old friend that i had ever written, he just guessed. so i accepted his challenge and started digging out all the things i had written so long ago. 

there among all the pitiful poems i wrote lay a hand written copy of a poem of yours that i fell in love with all those years ago. "Pushing the Clouds Away, oh how that brought back memories. you do not know how much peace of mind that poem gave me. and as i read it again after all these years the dam holding back all those words and i began writing again. in a little over a month i wrote about 100 and they are still flowing. i don't know why nor do i understand the reasons but the words have to find their way out of my mind and onto paper. honestly the majority of them stink, but they are still me, my heart and my mind and conscience. there are a few of which i am very proud. but not for publication or anything special. i want to put them all together and give them to my kids and a couple of special friends if something ever happens to me. 

but while i can i also want to thank you for all your poetry and what it has meant to me through the years. i never expected to get to tell you myself and i sure don't expect an answer but it feels good to thank you from the bottom of my heart. i know you get letters all the time and so many people taking up your time with nonsense and i guess this could be included in that, but i hope that i can make you understand just how much i do appreciate what you have done for me. thank you very much. sincerely, Mary Ellen Cobble, Phoenix


Dear Mary Ellen, Your compliments are much appreciated. What a marvelous idea; putting your writing together for the future enjoyment of your children and friends. 

If poetry is 'pouring out of you', don't question it. We write because we have to write, not just because we want to. It cleanses us and helps us to understand ourselves. Keep writing, Luv Rod


Tomorrow is all about cats and features a new photograph of Kubby Kat Too. Sleep warm.


                        RM 1/12/2001 Previously unpublished                                

THE LAST WORD

Today it belongs to Kyletta.

Three aspiring psychiatrists from various medical schools were attending their first in-service class as new interns.

"Just to establish some parameters," said the mentor to the young intern from UT (University of Texas), "What is the opposite of joy?"

"Sadness," replied the young man.

"And the opposite of depression?," he asked the young woman from Harvard Med.

"Elation," she replied.

"And you, sir," he said to the young man from Texas A&M, "how about the opposite of woe?"

The Aggie replied, "Sir, I believe that would be giddy-up"

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Elvin Bishop o Georgia Brown o Samuel Taylor Coleridge o Carrie Fisher o Whitey Ford o Valenzuela Fujita o Dizzy Gilespie o Peter Graves o Katsushuba Hokusai o Michael Landon o Manfred Mann o Jeremy Miller o Benjamin Netanyahu o Alfred Nobel o Brian Piccolo o Joyce Randolph o Helen Reveles o Bill Russell (baseball) o Ted Shawn o Judge Judy Sheindlin o Sir George Solti o Georg Ernst Stahl o Edmund Waller

 . . . and today Mitch Kornfield is a year and a month older (this is my cover-up and apology for leaving his name of the birthday list a month ago.)

Rod's random thoughts All life is afterlife, and we are marking time.

I'd as soon lie down with sleeping bears as track the does by moonlight.
                           
-from "Caught In The Quiet"

I wanted the moon but settled for oranges. 
                               
-from "Second Best"

OFTEN IN WINTER

Often in winter
that feared but unseen hand
old banker priests can still depend on
to help them herd their flocks
up the steps of stained-glass banks,
returns dependably
to work me over too.

Christ knows my span of concentration
and the time to teach me lessons
is the time when I'm boxed in by grey.
For when the sun shines
what man fears God
or his one begotten Son.

Loving is the new salvation,
with Gideon the king providing bibles
for each final prayer and evensong.
And bedroom soldiers
on ten million battlefields
fighting nightly sword to sword
would not dispute their uncrowned king.

I presume
that International Harvester
can take its proper credit
for bales of straw and wheat.

But man must not forget
who fostered love
         and fed it.

Whatever moral tract
         or bulging bible
gave him rules and regulations
man aspired to love
and learned its practice well.

Just as man is good
at finding further rainbows
when the near ones fade.

What litany you use
I leave to you,
but let it be the testament of touch
                 however tentative.
A Mass to keep the cold out.
At the breakfast table
or your dresser altar.
Let us now proclaim
the new religion real
after far too many trial runs.

                         
- from "Fields of Wonder", 1971
 
1969, 1971, 1988, 1995, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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