Michael McClure

Michael McClure

Michael McClure was born October 20, 1932 in Marysville, Kansas. He spent his earliest years in Seattle, Washington, where his avid interest in nature and wildlife fed an early aspiration to become a natural scientist. Eventually, McClure travelled to San Francisco and participated in a poetry workshop with Robert Duncan, his earliest experience within the genesis of San Francisco’s evolving literary and social movement known as the Beat period.

He joined Philip Lamantia, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder & Philip Whalen as the “unknowns” at the famous Six Gallery reading in 1955. The reading was arranged and promoted by Kenneth Rexroth to showcase a few of his young poet friends. It was an important vehicle for the exposure these poets gained and set forth the Beat period with an increased momentum and social awareness.

McClure frequented the usual haunts of the Beats and spent a lot of this time in the Haight-Ashbury district in the mid-1960’s where the “hipsters” became the “hippies”. He joined Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder at Golden Gate Park’s “Human Be-In” in January of 1967.

McClure is still active as a poet, essayist and playwright. He gives performances of his poetry at colleges such as Stanford, NYU and The University of Arizona. He also performs at clubs in San Diego, Vancouver and New York as well as festivals in Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. He has been featured in several films including Scorsese’s The Last Waltz. McClure and Rip Torn played outlaw motorcyclists in Norman Mailer’s film Beyond the Law. He has made three TV documentaries, and published numerous books of poetry, plays, two novels and several collections of essays. McClure’s journalism appears in Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.

In the early 90’s he joined the Doors’ former keyboardist, Ray Manzarek for a series of live poetry readings read to music. They even videotaped one of these performances, titling it “Love Lion”.

Point Lobos: Animism

It is possible my friend
If I have had a fat belly
That the wolf lives on fat
Gnawing slowly
Through a visceral night of rancor.
It is possible that the absense of pain
May be so great
That the possibility of care
May be impossible.

Perhaps to know pain.
Anxiety, rather than the fear
Of the fear of anxiety.
This talk of miracles!

Of Animism:
I have been in a spot so full of spirits
That even the most joyful animist
When all in sight was less to be cared about
Than death
And there was no noise in the ears
That mattered.
(I knelt in the shade
By a cold salt pool
And felt the entrance of hate
On many legs,
The soul like a clambering
Water vascular system.

No scuttling could matter
Yet I formed in my mind
The most beautiful
Of maxims.
How could I care
For your illness or mine?)
This talk of bodies!

It is impossible to speak
Of lupine or tulips
When one may read
His name
Spelled by the mold on the stumps
When the forest moves about one.
Heel. Nostril.
Light. Light! Light!
This is the bird’s song
You may tell it
to your children.

February Morning

Larry,a song sparrow warbles slightly
in the silver morning after the storm.
We enjoy the form,
the shape, the doorways, of the consciousness
that you explored as an astronaut.
I sit on your porches,
and hear your birds, and smell
your rain. You have opened
a sensory brightness
that was not closed
but glowed and enlarged
with pleasure.
You have set
what I feel and touch
to a fresh strain.
You “unmeasure”
music and sense
to be an
opening rose
a rose untouched before

Elephant Head: Opener of Doorways

Great Ganesh, with your single tusk
and conch shell in your hand,
what is on the other side
of the Blackness?

What is not there in the non-dimensions,
in the nothing stuff, when it is freed
of the weight of our fistfull of senses?
What is the rosy musk of the other
side of our eyes and brain
preceding the fantasy of quarks and the rivers of novae?

Give me a
trillion senses
to bite it all like a blackberry
and find the seeds caught
in my teeth.

When I spit, my sputum
will be the colors of it.
I know when I laugh
it rings

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