dressed up like a lady: The Beautiful World of Rod McKuen

Jan 30, 2015

The Beautiful World of Rod McKuen

Poet and musician Rod McKuen died yesterday at the age of 81. This is a reworking of a tribute post we published about McKuen in 2011. We love him and we hope he rests in peace. 


Today, we celebrate Rod McKuen.

MC got this fantastic vintage t-shirt at the Getup recently. But to fully understand its sheer delightfulness, you might need a primer on just who Rod McKuen is. 

We couldn't think of a better way to honor an artist who devoted over thirty books to unabashedly celebrating the trappings of the heart and the senses than with a ridonkulous boudoir shoot.

"I have fallen in love with the world and I am aware that I have chosen the most dangerous lover of them all." - Rod McKuen
McKuen was an uncommonly popular author in the realm of poetry and his commercial success made him a pop culture icon for most of the '60s and '70s. Much of the reason for this is the fact that, to put it quite bluntly, he didn't write substantive, artistically challenging verse. His poems were more like song lyrics, which makes sense, because he was also a musician. His poetry is highly literal and largely focused on the three main audience friendly topics of love, animals, and childhood. But mostly love. Here's an example.

The lifetime I have left
I open up to you
to tread upon
and travel through.

You pave the road
I'll follow,
You build the bridge,
I'll test it first.

-Rod McKuen, Caught in the Quiet...

McKuen was more respected as a songwriter than as a poet. His cleverness was a gift, and so was the fearlessness with which he exposed his tenderest thoughts and feelings. He's not exactly Ginsberg and his poems can broad, obvious, and sentimental, but that's no reason not to love him or his work. His poetry is still deftly written, very sweet and always unpretentious.

Indeed, there really is something beautifully earnest about Rod McKuen. After all, you can't devote one entire book of poetry to cats if you're not fundamentally honest with yourself. The way he guilelessly reveals his every feeling and observation -- even when he seems to do it tritely -- is resolutely graceful in its honesty. As a person and as an artist, he is fundamentally endearing.


If you like apples
I'll carry home an orchard
If sky is to your liking
I'll bundle up the skies
of summer
so you'll never need to know
the winter evening any more

I like the fire
and so I wait for winter nights
Apples I can take or leave

-Rod McKuen, With Love...

He's also kind of a cheeky rascal.

Rome Itself

I carry
down between my legs
Rome itself,
for you love Rome
and I would drive Rome into you
or drive you into Rome.
This room your coliseum
till you board your plane,
These arms your forum,
cat's included.

Self propelled am I
between the morning
and the midnight
I glide along your groin
and earn my wings
by testing out your thighs
like some new willful Wiley Poet

My flight is not away
not to or from.
Above you, below you --
I soar around you
and perch upon your second pillow.

-Rod McKuen, Fields of Wonder

My actual expression after reading the poem above.

And as if the man weren't already lovable enough, he also adored cats.

Rod has returned to his new loves, his old loves, and the ever-constant sea. His warmth, cleverness, and honesty will be missed. 

I'll Say Goodbye

Now that the summer's come and gone I'll say good-bye.
Now that the winter's comin' on I'll say goodbye.
I'm not the first man or the last
who had a thirst to leave the past.
So while the autumn rain is falling I'll say good-bye

For every star that falls to earth a new one glows.
For every dream that fades away a new one grows.
When things are not what they would seem
you must keep following your dream.
So while my heart is still believing I'll say good-bye.

Love is a sweet thing caught a moment
and held in a golden eye.
You can borrow but never own it
after a while it says good-bye.

-Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm

 So long, cowboy. 


  1. Wow I love ur hair love ur smile... U r gorgeous ...following u ..
    Great post..
    Happy Weekend !


    1. You are very sweet! Thank you, Ananya. :)

  2. nice tribute - im a big mckuen fan

    1. Thanks very much. We were lucky to have him, weren't we? :)


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