Book Report: Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows by Rod McKuen (1970)

In July (2006), I read In Someone’s Shadow to my son. Since then, we’ve been working on the innumerable inscrutable complete works of Emily Dickinson. So, to give him a break after a hundred or so, I read him this collection. Most of it, anyway.

Compared to Dickinson, McKuen is a breeze to read. I’ve done my share of coffee shop open mikes, so I’m familiar with the flavor of easy, first person emotional free verse. I understand the line breaks and can read them aloud with the self-conscious and self-important air of the turtle-necked hipster. That doesn’t make the poetry any better. As a matter of fact, it detracts.

Overall, although many of Dickinson’s pieces are riven with weird capitals, unfathomable line breaks, and often run to the simplistic, they’re built on imagery often whereas McKuen’s, like other poems by free versers of the era and all juvenile journaler poets moving into the English programs of today, rely upon the biographical poet narrator saying I did this or I did that or I loved you or I served in Korea. Sure, it’s cathartic for the poet narrator and it can speak to a subset of people who share your experiences directly, but the words don’t evoke the emotion through imagery. They report it in the idiom of the day.

Ultimately, it explains why so many Rod McKuen books are available at book fairs, I suppose.

(Oh, my, and I bought so many volumes at the Carondolet Y Book Fair this year. It’s going to be a long year of poetry-reading, gentle reader.)

Books mentioned in this review:


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3 thoughts on “Book Report: Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows by Rod McKuen (1970)

  1. I bought 2 book grab bags on ebay.. I don’t know what will be in them but it says it guarantees 3 first editions in each package.

    I can’t wait to get them, I feel like I’m waiting for christmas morning.

  2. That’s brave.

    I at least need to see the cover to foolishly outlay money on books it will take me decades to read.

    How much did you pay?

  3. $15.. but I’m a sucker for presents, even if I have to pay for them myself.

    They still aren’t here though. I’m DYING.

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