Photo by Jay Hagan,
7/12/08 Burbank, CA
A Thought for Today
I have never known a man who didn’t wish
aloud or beneath his breath to be considered a sex symbol.
TO BEGIN WITH
I’ve performed major surgery on one of the poems from In Someone’s
Shadow and you can check out the results in today’s poem. Then, as we
head into the last long holiday weekend of the summer here in America I
hope you will read on through today’s Flight Plant to the Final Word
As for the questions in Ask Rod, I think you might find a surprise or
two. I did.
WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS
This is probably for the record books, but I need to find the Rod McKuen
poetry book I borrowed from a friend in about 1971 and lost! After all
these years I still feel horrible because I never replaced it and now I
have found this old friend again and want to do the right thing.
All I remember about the book is there was a poem
that referred to him being in Paris – I think it was sort of a romantic
reflection. Can you help me? Marlene Hendrickson, University of Montana
Dear Marlene, First off shame on you for making off with a friends book
but glad to see your heart is now in the right place and you want to
track it down. I think you might be referring to Lonesome Cities that
contains three Paris poems, or it could be the book that preceded it,
"Listen to the Warm." There is an often-quoted line "If you cry when we
leave Paris I'll buy you a teddy bear all soft and gold."
Wish I had a little more to go on but hope this points you in the right
direction. All my best and again my apologies for taking so long in
trying to nail the information you requested. Best to you and yours, Rod
DRUNK WITH LOVE
Dear Mr. McKuen: I have a friend who has been trying to find a copy of a
poem of yours that contains the following phrase, “like drunkards into
(EDITORS NOTE: What followed was a jumble of verses and words that would
only confuse matters so they have been deleted from the letter)
Please let me know where he can find a copy, or if
one is available on the web. Thanks! Ruth Anne
Dear Ruth Anne, The problem with the verses you enclosed is that they
have been jumbled a bit. One quatrain isn’t mine or anything and I have
no clue as to who might have written it.
Here are the complete words to the poem you seem to be looking for it is
titled No Whisky Bars and is contained in the paperback book ‘Love’s
Been Good to Me”, published in 1979 by Pocket Books, New York.
NO WHISKY BARS
I believe that crawling into you
is going back into myself.
That by the act of
joining hands with you
I become more of me.
There are no whiskey bars
for dancers like ourselves,
and so we move into each other
like drunkards into open doorways.
My need for you is near addiction.
No sailor ever had tattoos
growing on his forearm
the way your smile
has willed itself back behind my eyes.
It will not dissolve.
It will not divide.
For I am nothing if not you.
-from Love’s Been Good to Me, 1979
Love’s Been Good To Me, Hand in Hand, Alone and Looking For A Friend are
among the paperback books of poetry available from
Stanyanhouse.com. Hope this
helps. All my best, Rod.
BIRCH TREES & THE MUSE
I finally got the marvelous book and CD's A Safe Place to Land
yesterday. Dripping from the shower I answered the intercom in robe and
slippers to sign for the package. For you Rod nothing is out. I ripped
into the package still leaving water droplets at the computer desk.
This morning I put the first CD in the media player. Ahhh! What joy! I
got to The Muse of Unimportant Men and the music caught my ear. Is it
birches expanded? I know I've heard it.
I know And To Each Season is set to Pachelbel's Canon. Where Canon is
concerned I can "Name That Tune" in 1 note I've heard it so often. My
youngest daughter has played it on just about all of the musical
instruments she plays and she plays 5. She has won in competition on
flute. I handed her the sheet music to Titanic and it was as if she had
been playing it all along.
Am I losing my hearing or am I right about Muse?
Is it Birches? I love it. But there again I haven't heard anything yet
of yours I don't love. Beverly
Dear Beverly, You nailed it. The music is indeed the adagio from "Birch
Trees. " As you may know I first wrote "Birch Trees" back in the 1980's
as part of my score for the American / Soviet co-production "The Unknown
War" The year I spent working in Russia provided me with inspiration for
several compositions in the classical genre and quite a heap of songs,
but of all the work I was involved in I still can't seem to shake Birch
Trees. The theme even found its way into one of my piano trios. "The
Muse of Unimportant Men" is a kind of watershed poem that took my
writing in a different direction so when it came time to record it in
2001 the Birch Trees music behind the poem seemed to be the perfect
That selection in the book and record set of A Safe Place to Land seems
to be attracting more and more attention, This past spring Jack Goodwin
the webmaster of The Message Board wrote me a lengthy note that proved
to me he really got the implications of the track. As for my feelings
about it, lets just say that some might find it more than a little odd
that I’m having a longer than usual crush on one of my own works. On the
disc it unwinds at a leisurely 18 minutes and at twenty-six stanzas it's
a bit long to perform at a concert so it has yet to receive a public
performance –– unlike it's twin Birch Trees which in its various guises
has received a number of outings before audiences (yet another
arrangement of it even found its way into The Bear Family RCA set.) I
couldn't be more delighted to hear that you have stumbled onto it Katy
–– especially since I tucked it away at the end of disc one.
As for “And to Each Season.” have another listen, you’ll find it has a
melody all it’s own. The song is actually meant to be a fugue with the
Pachelbel music as counterpoint. With Affection and thanks, Rod
THE BLACK EAGLE
I have seen a few sites that offer Rod McKuen vocals on CD, but I have
not seen any who have offered The Black Eagle (2SR 5087), your ‘Gothic
Musical.’ Is this being released again on an album or being remastered
for CD? Kirk Miller.
Dear Kirk, Odd but I was reminiscing about "The Black Eagle" this very
day. Despite its cult popularity as a double LP it has never made its
way to compact disc. The big reason is that I have never been totally
satisfied with it, to me it remains an unfinished work but that doesn't
mean that it is on 'the back burner.'
I have done some work on it over the years and chances are it will
eventually emerge on CD. Meanwhile for them what likes 'em (LP's that
is.) the original set is still available on LP from
Stanyan House. Cheers, Rod
WHISTLES IN THE NIGHT
I am haunted by memories of happier days and a
reading (?) by someone who waits for trains. In my wanderings I came
across an old black man who said that there could be only one source of
a works on that order, and that would be you.
Is it possible that you once spoke of trains on a radio show, or
recorded something on that order. I have only fading recollections but I
do know that a voice comes to me when I’m falling asleep and hear a
train whistle in the night. If this is a work of yours, Can you help me
to hear this again? Thank You, Leslie Vertz
Dear Leslie, The work you're thinking of is a two-parter consisting of a
poem "The Art of Catching Trains," that leads into a song "To Watch the
Trains." The Art of Catching Trains first appeared in a 1970's book and
album of mine, "Lonesome Cities." Over the years the book has sold
several million copies and the album went platinum and won me a Grammy
for Best Spoken Word album of 1971.
Both selections are based on real life experiences. When I was a kid I
was a bit of a hobo, riding many a boxcar to get from here to there.
And, the poem and song happen to be personal favorites and I never
perform one without doing the other. You can find them on a newly
mastered double CD set "Live in London". For more info contact
Stanyanhouse.com. Years ago
these two old friends were a staple of every one of my concerts and they
are being revived for my upcoming shows and appearances.
Over the years I've written a lot about trains but these remain my
favorite 'locomotive works.' Part of what makes them so haunting is the
musical backing provided by Arthur Greenslade's lovely orchestral
arrangements. Both feature a unique French instrument called the Ondez
Martenot; the soloist is the incomparable Sylvette Allart. Madame Allart
is probably the world's leading exponent of the Ondez Martenot. It won a
special prize in the 1920's at The Paris World's Fair.
The words and the musical settings (both came to me at once) are the
closest I can get to describing the exhilaration and thrill of riding a
fast freight or even listening to a passenger train slow and whistle at
a crossing as a line of lighted windows flash across a room momentarily
only to be gone forever in the middle night. I'm glad you remember
trains too Leslie and that you shared those recollections. Trains and
all that they conger are all but gone from our lives now. Warmest
8/27/2008 First Publication
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