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Michael McClure

1932–2020

Michael McClure was born on October 20, 1932. He attended the Municipal University of Wichita, the University of Arizona, and San Francisco State College, where he earned a BA in 1955. That same year, McClure was asked to organize the Six Gallery Readings, effectively launching the San Francisco Renaissance and the legend of the Beat Poets. His piece “For the Death of 100 Whales,” read during the Gallery Readings, has been credited as a launching point for the eco-poetics movement.

He was also a key figure in the Hippie counterculture of the 1960’s, touring with Ray Manzarek of The Doors, co-writing with Janis Joplin, and participating in the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park.

A playwright, essayist, and poet, McClure’s prolific writing career included over thirty books of poetry, plays, and prose, including most recently Persian Pony (Ekstasis Editions, 2017) and Mephistos and Other Poems (City Lights Publishers, 2016).

“There is no way that you can read a poem by Michael McClure without experiencing some kind of connection with something primal and cosmic,” said writer Juvenal Acosta of McClure’s work, “He has changed the way we speak and read American poetry.”

McClure’s prose has been featured in Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Alfred Jarry Award, and a Rockerfeller grant for playwriting. His play The Beard won Best Director and Best Actress in the 1967-68 Obie Awards.

McClure taught poetry at California College of the Arts for forty-three years, and died on May 4, 2020, in Oakland Hills, California.


Selected Bibiliography

Poetry

Persian Pony (Ekstasis Editions, 2017)
Mephistos and Other Poems (City Lights Publishers, 2016)
Mysteriosos and Other Poems (New Directions Publishing, 2010)
Little Odes and The Raptors (Black Sparrow Press, 1969)
Ghost Tantras (City Lights Publishers, 1964)
Hymns to St. Geryon and Other Poems (The Auerhahn Press, 1959)
Passage (Johnathan Williams, 1956)

Plays

The Beard and VKTMS: Two Plays (Grove Press, 1985)
The Mammals (Cranium Press, 1972)

Prose

Scratching the Beat Surface: Essays on New Vision from Blake to Kerouac (North Point Press, 1982)

By This Poet

2

Cameo One

WE HAVE GONE
GONE. GONE
in the hole where
soul swells
into
nothing
leaving solid space
where profiles
of gods and fairies
are carved
and
finely
polished
by the clanking of trucks,
thunder-shaking
waves,
and the taste of mangos.

Peyote Poem [excerpt]

Clear — the senses bright — sitting in the black chair — Rocker —
the white walls reflecting the color of clouds
moving over the sun. Intimacies! The rooms

not important — but like divisions of all space
of all hideousness and beauty. I hear
the music of myself and write it down

for no one to read. I pass fantasies as they
sing to me with Circe-Voices. I visit
among the peoples of myself and know all
I need to know.

I KNOW EVERYTHING! I PASS INTO THE ROOM

there is a golden bed radiating all light

the air is full of silver hangings and sheathes

I smile to myself. I know

all that there is to know. I see all there

is to feel. I am friendly with the ache
in my belly. The answer

to love is my voice. There is no Time!
No answers. The answer to feeling is my feeling.

The answer to joy is joy without feeling.
The room is a multicolored cherub
of air and bright colors. The pain in my stomach
is warm and tender. I am smiling. The pain
is many pointed, without anguish.

Light changes the room from yellows to violet!

The dark brown space behind the door is precious
intimate, silent and still. The birthplace
of Brahms. I know

all that I need to know. There is no hurry.

I read the meanings of scratched walls and cracked ceilings.

I am separate. I close my eyes in divinity and pain.

I blink in solemnity and unsolemn joy.

I smile at myself in my movements. Walking
I step higher in carefulness. I fill

space with myself. I see the secret and distinct
patterns of smoke from my mouth

I am without care part of all. Distinct.
I am separate from gloom and beauty. I see all.