Episode 377 - Happy 50th, Rod McKuen

Episode 341 · January 15th, 2024 · 22 mins 4 secs

About this Episode

I've been thinking some about "borderland" states, meaning extremely strong states of mind and feeling that are not necessarily explicit, but are nonetheless real. Borderland states of mind are when you are in despair concerning your life, or your primary relationships, or simply the way you feel inside. Sometimes the borderland state is positive -- for example, when you fall deeply in love, or when somebody reaches out to you in selfless concern when you are "all fall down". More often, the borderland is negative, and can result in self-destructive acts or even suicide.

Rod McKuen (d. 2015) was a magician of the borderland. His songs, performed with that hoarse, breaking voice of his, are almost all addresses to the borderland of human feeling. They are almost all slightly "abnormal", expressing laconic extremes of feeling.

Their "kitsch" -- as they are sometimes pigeonholed -- is only as kitschy as extreme states of feeling are kitschy. We want to jump off a bridge or call up everyone we know to announce our euphoria or whisper our disappointment to the ends of the earth.

Rod McKuen's songs are hymns to the borderland. You could almost say they are a little "off". But who is not a little off? His songs actually carry huge promise.

Note that this cast references a recent sermon from Brad Knight, who spoke from his own borderland to the borderlands inhabited by his hearers. He hit the mark!

Podcast 377 is dedicated to the Very Rev. James G. Munroe.