To the poets of our youth

If you had teenage angst in the ’60s and ’70s — and who didn’t? — you probably spent time curled up with a Rod McKuen book of poetry or listening to some of his spoken word recordings.

It was deep, or so we thought. It penetrated our teenage souls, soothed our loneliness of break-ups with high-school girlfriends, and made us think that someone got us. It all made so much sense.

It took surviving the teenage years to determine that it was also utter garbage.

He claimed at one point that he was the world’s most widely-read poet, even though critics hated his work.

“What McKuen guarantees is that a certain California sexual daydreaming can be yours for the asking even if you do move your lips rapidly as you read,” Louis Cox wrote in The New Republic in 1971.


McKuen has died of pneumonia. He was 81.

  • Jim G

    I never got McKuen. You have to acknowledge that he was a commercial success and a cultural meme of the time. For me, watching the video encapsulated the era. However, California dreaming is whale watching off the Channel Islands looking south and realizing Antarctica is 11,000 miles away. Like I said… I never got the guy.

  • Sharon J

    It does bring back a lot of memories–first “taste” of sex and all the sensual images he invoked and I could be 20 years old again, when I was young, beautiful and everything was for the picking

    • joolz


    • Jack

      Oh! how delicious! a Chris Mars painting in the making!