Book Report: Fields of Wonder by Rod McKuen (1971)

Man, no one can make the quest for sex true love seem as banal as Rod McKuen over the course of several books. I had nice things to say about In Someone’s Shadow; I endured Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows. But this book? Blech.

I started reading this to my poor son, but his mother heard the first couple of lines of the first poem:

I began by loving nobody.

Then nobody’s face
became the face of many
as I traveled not to Tiburon or Tuscany
but battled back and forth between the breasts and thighs
of those who fancied for a time
my forelock and my foreskin.

Well, I guess that is a bit graphic. But it’s not sexy; it’s the banal wanderings of a poet narrator beginning the 1970s hangover to the era of free love. Worse, it’s the pseudo-stylings of a longing romantic who seems to be longing for a collection of faceless body parts in his quest for real love or real feeling.

The clever turns of phrase I thought were present in In Someone’s Shadow? Nothing. Sure, these poems are as accessible as regular prose without the line breaks, but I didn’t want to.

Worst of all, I have a couple more of these books left.

Oddly enough, the course of these books makes me more tolerant of Emily Dickinson’s misfires. Over the course of the 1,775 poems collected in the volume I’ve been wading through for over a decade, Dickinson’s pieces run the gamut from simplistic to inscrutable to wow, but her average seems slightly better than McKuen at this point.

Which is why she was taught, almost, in college in the early 1990s, some 130 years after she wrote most of her poems, and Rod McKuen was not, some 20 years after he became an industry unto himself.

Books mentioned in this review:


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