A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Spare the Rod and Really Listen to the Warm

Listen to the WHAT? Are we talking Rod McKuen, the millionaire Valentine singer and people's poet from the Seventies? Treacle pudding in person?

We are. And we'll get to why in a minute--when I tell you about the world's sexiest blanket--but first:

Born in 1933, McKuen had already been around a while--as a journalist, singer and composer--when he broke through as a poet with Stanyan Street & Oher Sorrows in 1966, then Listen to the Warm in 1967 and Lonesome Cities in 1968. In '68 alone, his books were translated into eleven languages and sold over a million copies. During the Seventies, he went on to receive serious recognition as a composer through his concertos, symphonies, chamber pieces and suites...But today we consider him in his best-known guise--as a poet. 

In turbulent times, with Dylan and Cohen rocking some serious boats, McKuen was a welcome voice, especially to lovers who wanted to hug, not protest. His verses were simple and sincere: 

"Thank you for the sun you brought this morning
even though the sky was full of clouds."


"There've been so many who didn't understand

so give me all the love I see in your timid eyes
but give it gently

He made a fortune writing such. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find four words that heaped more abuse on a writer than  'Listen to the warm.' Lovers of Dylan and Cohen jeered, I know. I was one of them. And I hadn't thought of McKuen in years--until last night, when I woke in a chill...and looked at the cushy new blanket I'd left at the food of the bed.

My entire body was aching and cold, for I'd had a brutal morning workout and had left one window open. Now, when I signed up at Gold's and decided to get serious, I also made a solemn vow: to listen to my body--what I needed to eat, when I needed to rest, etc. You need to understand that I had decided to listen. If you understand that, then you'll understand that I heard my cold and aching muscles crying out for warmth. Or, as Rod would say, for warm.

As I slid the blanket over me, then tucked it in on both sides, I felt enveloped within a cocoon. And I found myself listening too to the warmed: taxed muscles finding required relief. The comfort found from a blanket in the midst of a cold night astounded me. It also humbled me because I'd done Rod an injustice--and also the readers who loved him.

He may not be my cuppa--I prefer Auden or Ovid or Horace--but he produced a brand of warm that millions have loved since the Sixties. And he wrote four words, at least, that never slipped my memory.

Now in his eighties, Rod McKuen still maintains a lively blog well worth a look:


You never know. You too may find yourself to be one of the warmed. 

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