Michael McClure


Biography of Michael McClure

Michael McClure (born October 20, 1932) is an American poet, playwright, songwriter, and novelist. After moving to San Francisco as a young man, he found fame as one of the five poets (including Allen Ginsberg) who read at the famous San Francisco Six Gallery reading in 1955 rendered in barely fictionalized terms in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. He soon became a key member of the Beat Generation and is immortalized as "Pat McLear" in Kerouac's Big Sur.

McClure's first book of poetry, Passage, was published in 1956 by small press publisher Jonathan Williams. His poetry is heavily infused with an awareness of nature, especially in the animal consciousness that often lies dormant in mankind. Not only an awareness of nature, but the poems are organized in an organic fashion, continuing with his appreciation of nature's purity.

McClure has since published eight books of plays and four collections of essays, including essays on Bob Dylan and the environment. His fourteen books of poetry include Jaguar Skies, Dark Brown, Huge Dreams, Rebel Lions, Rain Mirror and Plum Stones. McClure famously read selections of his Ghost Tantra poetry series to the caged lions in the San Francisco Zoo. His work as a novelist includes the autobiographical The Mad Cub and The Adept.

On January 14, 1967, McClure read at the epochal Human Be-In event in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and transcended his Beat label to become an important member of the 1960s Hippie counterculture. Barry Miles famously referred to McClure as "the Prince of the San Francisco Scene".

McClure would later court controversy as a playwright with his play The Beard. The play tells of a fictional encounter in the blue velvet of eternity between Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow and is a theatrical exploration of his "Meat Politics" theory, in which all human beings are "bags of meat."

Other plays include Josephine The Mouse Singer and VKTMS. He had an eleven-year run as playwright-in-residence with San Francisco's Magic Theatre where his operetta "Minnie Mouse and the Tap-Dancing Buddha" had an extended run. He has made two television documentaries – The Maze and September Blackberries – and is featured in several films including The Last Waltz (dir. Martin Scorsese) where he reads from The Canterbury Tales; Beyond the Law (dir. Norman Mailer); and, most prominently, The Hired Hand (dir. Peter Fonda).

McClure was a close friend of The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and is generally acknowledged as having been responsible for promoting Morrison as a poet. McClure performed spoken word poetry concerts with Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek up until Ray's death and several CDs of their work have been released. McClure is the author of the Afterword in Jerry Hopkins's and Danny Sugerman's seminal Doors biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive. McClure has also released CDs of his work with minimalist composer Terry Riley. McClure’s songs include "Mercedes Benz," popularized by Janis Joplin, and new songs which were performed by Riders on the Storm, a band that consisted of original Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger.

McClure's journalism has been featured in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The L.A. Times and The San Francisco Chronicle. He has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Obie Award for Best Play, an NEA grant, the Alfred Jarry Award and a Rockefeller grant for playwriting. McClure is still active as a poet, essayist and playwright and lives with his second wife, Amy, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has one daughter from his first marriage to Joanna McClure.

PoemHunter.com Updates

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.

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