McClure, Michael.

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Michael McClure was an American poet, playwright, songwriter, and novelist, and part of the Beat Generation of poetry. He was one of five authors who read at the famous San Francisco Six Gallery reading, and became close with Jack Kerouac, being immortalized as Pat McLean in Big Sur. He is known as the Prince of the Frisco Scene.

From the guide to the Michael McClure letter to Diane di Prima, September 1968, (Ohio University)

San Francisco-based Beat poet and playwright Michael McClure was born in Marysville, Kansas, in 1932. His collections of poetry include Star (1970), September Blackberries (1974), Jaguar Skies (1975) and Antechamber (1978). McClure’s plays are in the avant-garde tradition and include The Beard (1965), Gargoyle Cartoons (1971), Gorf (1971) and Josephine: The Mouse Singer (1980). McClure received several honors and awards, including an Obie for Josephine: The Mouse Singer , the Pushcart Prize for Poetry (1991), and an award for lifetime achievement in poetry from the National Poetry Association (1993).

"Michael (Thomas) McClure." Contemporary Authors Online (reproduced in Biography Resource Center). http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (accessed October 2005).

From the guide to the Michael McClure correspondence with Arthur and Kit Knight, 1973–1981, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Biographical Information

Poet, playwright, novelist, and essayist Michael McClure has spread his literary net wide, but is best known as one of the leading poets of the Beat generation. Born in Marysville, Kansas on October 20, 1932, McClure became intimately associated with the counter-culture of the West coast. His childhood was initially spent in the environs of Seattle, Washington, but McClure and family were to return to Kansas where he finished high school and attended college, first at the University of Wichita, Kansas and then the University of Arizona. He finished his studies in San Francisco, receiving his Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State College in June of 1955. During this time he studied with poet Robert Duncan.

On October 7, 1955, at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, McClure, along with Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Philip Lamantia, shared the bohemian literary spotlight in what became the most famous poetry reading event of the Beat generation. The reading was followed by the publication of McClure's books of poems, Passages (1956), For Artaud, Hymns to St. Geryon (1959), Dark Brown, The New Book/A Book of Torture (1961), and Ghost Tantras (1964) and his first book of essays, Meat Science Essays (1963). But it was McClure's controversial play, The Beard (1965), an imaginary erotic encounter in a blue velvet eternity between 30s Hollywood star, Jean Harlow and Wild West outlaw, Billy the Kid, which catapulted him into the national spotlight while highlighting the debate of artistic expression versus obscenity.

The late 1960s saw McClure expand his notoriety by befriending Jim Morrison of The Doors (they co-authored a film script based on McClure's novel, The Adept (1971) in which Morrison was to star). He became an intimate with Hell's Angels' secretary, Frank Reynolds (co-authoring his memoirs) and even co-wrote the chart-topping rock/pop song, "Mercedes Benz", made famous by singer Janis Joplin.

McClure's creative collaborations often bore fruitful and inspired aesthetic results. His long relationship, from the 50s through the 80s, with artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner resulted in several enigmatic poetry/image publications, a early video project made for public television entitled, Liberty Crown (1967), and a sound recording of McClure reading Ghost Tantras outside the lion's cages at the San Francisco Zoo. During the 70s, McClure worked intensively with John Lion, General Director of the Magic Theater in San Francisco, producing numerous McClure plays. Since the late 1980s, his partnership with former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek has allowed McClure to expand upon the intersection of music and the spoken word. Most recently, composer Terry Riley wrote the musical score for the revival of McClure's play, Josephine: The Mouse Singer .

McClure's emphasis as a writer has been the attempt to heal, if not subvert, the Cartesian mind/body split. Man is "meat" not mentality. Influenced by Blake and Whitman, McClure's poetry developed quite early into a highly visual, ecstatic, and spontaneous form that reflected his deeply felt belief that humanity is not separate from the fabric and often coarse function of nature, that there is a deep connection between biology and mysticism, flesh and spirit. As McClure explained in his foreword to Jaguar Skies (1975): Poetry is a muscular principle- an athletic song or whisper of flashy thought. We can be as serious as blue-black gloom or bright as a buttercup in the dawn. The spirit of poetry is loops we send out from the expanding helix of our lives. With poetry we can meet an old perception on a mountain top or in a subway, or view a new perception loping in the distance like a wolf- or glimmering like an opal in the twilight.

To these ends, McClure combined ideas from Antonin Artaud and the projective verse tradition of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan for creating his "body language," the use of animal noises, growls, and cries most explicitly given voice in his book of poems, Ghost Tantras . Throughout his career McClure, like friend and poet, Gary Snyder, has championed environmental awareness and holistic living by making impassioned pleas toward the defense of nature through the vehicle of his poetry and essays, for example, Wolf Net . McClure's deep and sensitive understanding of Eastern philosophy and religion, namely Buddhism, has also been a steady underpinning of his work and thought as has his lifelong interest in biology.

The late 60s and 1970s were a fertile period in McClure's development as a playwright. During this period he wrote numerous works of often satirical, humorous bent that bordered on the Dadaistic, including, Gorf, whose hero is a flying purple phallus, and a series of small plays under the rubric of Gargoyle Cartoons . His plays often premiered at the Bay Area's Magic Theater, and many were produced in venues nationally and internationally. McClure received a Rockefeller Grant in playwriting in 1974 and in 1978 was awarded an Obie Award for best play for the Off-Broadway production of Josephine: The Mouse Singer . Despite his success in theater and its concomitant demands, McClure never ceased writing poetry. He published books of collected poems, Star (1970) and September Blackberries (1974), and the long single poem, Rare Angel (1974). These were followed by the publications of the books of poems, Jaguar Skies (1975) and Antechamber, & other poems (1978). McClure was even able to find the time to publish his first novel, the autobiographical The Mad Cub (1970) and quickly followed one year later with The Adept , whose anti-hero is a handsome, narcissistic drug dealer.

The following decade was no less busy for McClure. He was to compile and publish a new series of essays, Scratching the Beat Surface (1982) and three books of poems, Fragments of Perseus (1983), Fleas (1985), and Specks (1985). By the mid-80s his long marriage to Joanna McClure (herself a poet) began unraveling and the couple divorced in 1986. At this time McClure met the artist, Amy Evans, whom he married in 1997. In 1988, McClure began working collaboratively with longtime friend, Ray Manzarek, after both were billed at an event at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California where McClure was headlining and Manzarek played piano with poet Michael C. Ford. Since then, McClure and Manzarek have performed nationally in a variety of venues ranging from cafes to college campuses, and television, and have produced several videos of their performance events.

The 1990s saw McClure's energy pour forth into ever more published work, including the book of poems, Rebel Lions (1991) and another collection of essays, which included interviews, Lighting the Corners: on Art, Nature, and the Visionary (1993). Most recently McClure has been focusing his poetic concerns on Buddhist themes and ideas in the two books of poems, Touching the Edge: Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha (1999) and Plum Stones: Cartoons of No Heaven (2002). Michael McClure continues to give poetry readings, as he has done regularly throughout his career, and currently (2006) lives in Oakland, California with his wife, Amy Evans McClure.

From the guide to the Michael McClure papers : additions, 1874-2003, bulk 1949-2002, (The Bancroft Library)

Michael McClure was an American poet, playwright, essayist, and novelist. Born in 1932 in Marysville, Kansas, McClure attended Wichita State University (1951-1953) and the University of Arizona (1953-1954) but received his B.A. from San Francisco State College in 1955.

McClure taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, first as assistant professor (1962-1977) and then as associate professor (1977) and finally professor of humanities. He spent a year as lecturer at the State University of New York at Buffalo (1979) before accepting a position as associate fellow at Pierson College, Yale University (1982). He also served on the board of directors of the Drylands Institute, an environmental research organization in Tucson, Arizona.

He is the author of more than forty collections of poetry, with translations of his work into has been translated into German, French, and Yugoslavian.

From the guide to the Michael McClure Papers, 1956-1964, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Irving Rosenthal papers, ca. 1950-1996 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Thomas Francis Parkinson Papers, 1950-1985. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn John Wieners Papers, 1955-1970 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
creatorOf Barkl, Michael, 1958-. Night words [music] : the ravishing : for voice and harp / text: Michael McClure ; music: Michael Barkl. Libraries Australia
referencedIn New American Poetry Circuit Records., 1969-1974. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Wallace Berman, 1907-1979 (bulk 1955-1979) Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
referencedIn Francis Crick Personal Papers, 1938 - 2007 Mandeville Special Collections Library
referencedIn Ann Charters Papers., 1966-1982. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Poetry mss., 1954-2002 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly
referencedIn (Everett) Leroi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) Papers, 1957-1965 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Philip Whalen papers, circa 1940-2002 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Larry Eigner papers, 1937-1995 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Allan H. Kurtzman Collection of Material about Beat Writers and Artists, ca. 1950-1989 University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
referencedIn Edward Dorn Papers., undated, 1956-1993. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Barry Miles Papers, 1958-1990 Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
creatorOf Michael McClure Papers, 1956-1964 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Allen Ginsberg papers, 1943-1991, [Bulk Dates: 1945-1976] Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Camels Coming, Archive, 1965-1969 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn Manuscripts and proofs of New Directions books, 1937-1997. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Philip Whalen Correspondence, 1978-1987 University of California, Davis. General Library. . Dept. of Special Collections
referencedIn New York Shakespeare Festival Records. Series IV: Production Materials, 1958-1992 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Joel Oppenheimer Papers, 1925-1988. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
referencedIn Peter Orlovsky Papers, 1954-1971. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, ca. 1933-1997. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Philip Lamantia papers, 1944-2005 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Allen Ginsberg papers, 1937-1994 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
creatorOf Michael McClure papers : additions, 1874-2003, bulk 1949-2002 Bancroft Library
referencedIn George Herms papers, 1890-2009 Getty Research Institute, Research Library
referencedIn Diane Di Prima Papers, 1948-1971 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Neyman, Michael. Screen adaptation, stills, and film for the original version of John Steinbeck's story FLIGHT, 1957-1961 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Robert LaVigne Papers, 1954-1969. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Robert A. Wilson collection, 1906-2011 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn William J. Eisenlord photographs, 1953-1976 Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
referencedIn Gary Snyder Papers, 1910-2003;, (1945-2002 bulk) University of California, Davis. General Library. . Dept. of Special Collections
referencedIn James S. Jaffe collection of Jonathan Williams and The Jargon Society, 1949-1990, 1968-1980 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Gerard Malanga Papers, 1944-1971 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn James Koller Papers., 1959-1986 Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
referencedIn Oyez Press Records., 1963-1987. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
creatorOf Michael McClure correspondence with Arthur and Kit Knight, 1973–1981 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Philip Whalen Papers, 1941-1979. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Larry Fagin Papers., n.d., 1958-1977. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Outburst Archive, 1959-1964 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn William Corbett archive for "A History of New Directions", 1967-1998. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Michael McClure letter to Diane di Prima, September 1968 Ohio University
referencedIn Gitin, David. Papers, 1968-1993. Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Baraka, Amiri, 1934- person
associatedWith Barkl, Michael, 1958-. person
associatedWith Batman Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Bergé, Carol, 1928- person
associatedWith Camels coming (San Francisco, Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Charters, Ann. person
associatedWith Conner, Bruce person
correspondedWith Corbett, William, 1942- person
associatedWith Crick, Francis, 1916-2004 person
associatedWith Di Prima, Diane. person
associatedWith Di Prima, Diane, Archives person
correspondedWith Dorn, Edward. person
associatedWith Doyle, Kirby. person
associatedWith Eigner, Larry, 1927- person
associatedWith Eisenlord, William J. person
correspondedWith Fagin, Larry. person
associatedWith Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 person
associatedWith Gitin David person
associatedWith Hell's Angels corporateBody
associatedWith Herms, George, 1935- person
associatedWith Jaffe, James S. person
associatedWith Jahrmarkt, William person
associatedWith Knight, Arthur. person
associatedWith Knight, Glee, 1947- person
associatedWith Knight, Kit. person
associatedWith Koller, James. person
associatedWith Kurtzman, Allan H. person
correspondedWith Lamantia, Philip, 1927-2005 person
associatedWith LaVigne, Robert, 1928- person
associatedWith Malanga, Gerard. person
associatedWith Marlowe, Alan. person
associatedWith Miles, Barry, 1943- person
associatedWith Modern Poetry Association corporateBody
associatedWith New American Poetry Circuit corporateBody
associatedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Shakespeare Festival corporateBody
associatedWith Neyman, Michael person
correspondedWith Oppenheimer, Joel person
associatedWith Orlovsky, Peter, 1933- person
associatedWith Oyez Press corporateBody
associatedWith Papp, Joseph person
associatedWith Parkinson, Thomas Francis, 1920- person
associatedWith Rosenthal, Irving, 1930- person
correspondedWith Snyder, Gary person
associatedWith Wallace Berman person
correspondedWith Whalen, Philip person
associatedWith Wieners, John, 1934- person
associatedWith Wilson, Robert A. (Robert Alfred), 1922- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Literature--American Fiction
Radicalism
Dramatists, American--20th century
Poets, American
American poetry--20th century
Bohemianism--United States
American literature--20th century
Beat generation--History--Sources
Poets
Literature--American Poetry
Literature, experimental
Beat generation
Occupation
Poets
Editors
Dramatists
Function

Person

Birth 1932-10-20

Americans

English

Information

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