I have admitted in this space before that I don't do a good job of keeping up with the news. I follow the headlines on the internet, most of the time, but no longer have cable television for regular news programming. Some days I listen to the news on National Public Radio, but at other times I even neglect that.
So it came as a sad surprise this morning when I learned that my favorite poet, Rod McKuen, had passed away several months ago.
Rod Mckuen, who was born into poverty and an extremely abusive home in Oakland, California, in 1933, ran away from home and began surviving on his own at the age of eleven. He traveled the world doing manual labor and observing life. McKuen read his early poetry in the coffee houses of San Francisco where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He found commercial success with his poetry and as a songwriter in the 1960's. His two most successful volumes of poetry were Listen to the Warm and Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows. Rod McKuen passed away at a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills in January of this year. He was eighty-one.
Rod McKuen had a great love for cats, and they were often featured in his works. One of my favorite McKuen pieces is "A Cat Named Sloopy" from Listen to the Warm. It is a tale of love and grief and mourning - but mostly love. The poem is a comfort - much like a saucer of warm cream.
A Cat Named Sloopy
by Rod McKuen