Rod McKuen (April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015)

“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.”
― Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm

From The New York Times: “For a generation of Americans at midcentury and afterward, Mr. McKuen’s poetry formed an enduring, solidly constructed bridge between the Beat generation and New Age sensibilities. Ranging over themes of love and loss, the natural world and spirituality, his work was prized by readers for its gentle accessibility while being condemned by many critics as facile, tepid and aphoristic.”

I was one of those who prized that gentle accessibility. I’m as inspired by his work today as I was in my teens, and, for me, his voice will be missed.

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To Prompt Or Not To Prompt

Behind the scenes, last week was a busy one at The Poetry Park. After tweaking a phrase here or deleting a senseless thought there, I’m finally comfortable with how the site looks and feels and I’m excited about posting the first prompt next Monday, February 2, 2015.

Speaking of prompts, while I’m sitting here sipping my coffee and watching it snow, I find myself pondering a comment I recently read on Twitter. A Tweeter posted that there was no value to poetry prompts because poems should be born solely through the inspiration buried within the heart and soul. Puzzled by the comment, I discussed the point with a friend of mine. To my surprise, he was in total agreement. He didn’t like his inspiration being restricted to a particular word or thought. Not for the first time (and certainly not for the last), I remain baffled by people’s perceptions. I’ve been writing for years. Inspiration abounds in my heart and soul, but it doesn’t just jump haphazardly through my fingers to the keyboard.

I suppose it’s all about how you define inspiration. If you write about how you feel in the rain, aren’t you inspired by the rain or a particular emotion? If you write about love, aren’t you inspired by a person or a relationship?

Poetry prompts serve the same purpose and, usually, produce results on a deeper level. Suppose a prompt you’re given is the word “grapefruit.” After you’ve said it’s a round, tart, diet food, what else is there to say? But the prompt is less about the grapefruit than what it brings to mind. If I think about it, I’m taken back to my younger days sitting around the kitchen table. We seldom ate breakfast as a family during the week. We weren’t much of a hot breakfast kind of family. Cereal was our morning staple. Dad ate his Wheaties with a banana and Mom ate her Total with half a grapefruit. If we were eating together, it was because we were heading out for the day or getting ready for Sunday Mass. From that one grapefruit comes the inspiration for family, memories, anticipation and spirituality. That’s a pretty hefty list of ideas from one piece of fruit!

When writing poetry, one thing leads to another. There’s nothing random about it. Words, phrases or images fuel our imagination. They uncover places we might have never thought of visiting. And once we reach those destinations, the sky is our creative limit.

If you’re a non-believer, join me at The Poetry Park and together we’ll choose to infuse the muse. Remember, our first prompt will be posted on Monday, 2/2/15. Hope to see you then!