Rod McKuen passed away recently. He probably introduced more people to poetry than anyone in the last sixty years. His poetry resonated with the general public which generated lots of jealousy and criticism from a poetry community that can be pretty brutal at times.
Recent generations have a tough time sitting still for any kind of poetry except rap and hip hop. Critics can seem to find good things to say about even the worst examples of these forms. The snarky attitude of many of these same people towards McKuen’s very readable style has always been a bit of a mystery.
I’m not aware of anyone else in recent years who has sold millions of books of poetry so it seems safe to say that he connected somewhere. And he successfully carried that talent into the music, television and film worlds.
We poets like to pretend that the commercial aspects are beneath us. And maybe that is true to a degree, but my collections of poetry have only sold a few thousand copies, so I wouldn’t mind a little more commercialization. And I bet, if they are honest, most poets would admit that they keep pretty close track of how many copies of their books have been sold.
Mr. McKuen faded from the public scene many years ago. But he played a major role in keeping poetry in front of the general public, and he should be remembered and thanked for making it a part of the lives of millions of citizens.
Glenn K. Currie