McClure, Michael (Thomas)

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McCLURE, Michael (Thomas)

Nationality: American. Born: Marysville, Kansas, 20 October 1932. Education: University of Wichita, Kansas, 1951–53; University of Arizona, Tucson, 1953–54; San Francisco State University, B.A.1955. Family: Married Joanna Kinnison in 1954 (divorced); one daughter. Career: Assistant professor, 1962–77, associate professor, 1977, and since 1978 professor, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland. Playwright-in-residence, American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco, 1975; associate fellow, Pierson College, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1982. Editor, with James Harmon, Ark II/Moby I, San Francisco, 1957. Awards: National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1967, 1974; Guggenheim fellowship, 1971; Magic Theatre Alfred Jarry award, 1974; Rockefeller fellowship, for drama, 1975; Obie award, for drama, 1978; Pushcart prize for poetry, 1991; Lifetime Achievement award in poetry, National Poetry Association, 1993. Agent: Helen Merrill Ltd., 361 West 17th Street, New York, New York 10011. Address: c/o New Directions, 80 8th Avenue, New York, New York 10011–5126, U.S.A.



Passage. Big Sur, California, Jonathan Williams, 1956.

Peyote Poem. San Francisco, Wallace Berman, 1958.

For Artaud. New York, Totem Press, 1959.

Hymns to St. Geryon and Other Poems. San Francisco, Auerhahn

Press, 1959.

The New Book: A Book of Torture. New York, Grove Press, 1961.

Dark Brown. San Francisco, Auerhahn Press, 1961.

Two for Bruce Conner. San Francisco, Oyez, 1964.

Ghost Tantras. Privately printed, 1964.

Double Murder! Vahrooooooohr! Los Angeles, Wallace Berman, 1964.

Love Lion, Lioness. Privately printed, 1964.

13 Mad Sonnets. Milan, East 128, 1964.

Poisoned Wheat. Privately printed, 1965.

Unto Caesar. San Francisco, Dave Haselwood, 1965.

Mandalas. San Francisco, Dave Haselwood, 1965.

Dream Table. San Francisco, Dave Haselwood, 1966.

Love Lion Book. San Francisco, Four Seasons, 1966.

Hail Thee Who Play. Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1968; revised edition, Berkeley, California, Sand Dollar, 1974.

Muscled Apple Swift. Topanga, California, Love Press, 1968.

Plane Pomes. New York, Phoenix Book Shop, 1969.

Oh Christ God Love Cry of Love Stifled Furred Wall Smoking Burning. San Francisco, Auerhahn Press, 1969(?).

The Sermons of Jean Harlow and the Curses of Billy the Kid. San Francisco, Four Seasons, 1969.

The Surge. Columbus, Ohio, Frontier Press, 1969.

Hymns to St. Geryon, and Dark Brown. London, Cape Goliard Press, 1969; San Francisco, Grey Fox Press, 1980.

Lion Fight. New York, Pierrepont Press, 1969.

Star. New York, Grove Press, 1971.

99 Theses. Lawrence, Kansas, Tansy Press, 1972.

The Book of Joanna. Berkeley, California, Sand Dollar, 1973.

Transfiguration. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pomegranate Press, 1973.

Rare Angel (writ with raven's blood). Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1974.

September Blackberries. New York, New Directions, 1974.

Solstice Blossom. Berkeley, California, Arif Press, 1974.

Fleas 189–195. New York, Aloes, 1974.

A Fist Full (1956–1957). Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1974.

On Organism. Canton, New York, Institute of Further Studies, 1974.

Jaguar Skies. New York, New Directions, 1975.

Man of Moderation. New York, Hallman, 1975.

Flea 100. New York, Hallman, 1975.

Antechamber. Berkeley, California, Poythress Press, 1977.

Antechamber and Other Poems. New York, New Directions, 1978.

Fragments of Perseus. New York, Jordan Davies, 1978.

Letters. New York, Jordan Davies, 1978.

The Book of Benjamin, with Wesley B. Tanner. Berkeley, California, Arif, 1982.

Fragments of Perseus (collection). New York, New Directions, 1983.

Fleas 180–186. Berkeley, California, Les Ferriss, 1985.

Selected Poems. New York, New Directions, 1986.

Rebel Lions. New York, New Directions, 1991.

Simple Eyes & Other Poems. New York, New Directions, 1994.

Three Poems. New York, Penguin, 1995.

Rain Mirror: New Poems. New York, New Directions, 1999.


!The Feast! (produced San Francisco, 1960). Included in The Mammals, 1972.

Pillow (produced New York, 1961). Included in The Mammals, 1972.

The Growl, in Four in Hand (produced Berkeley, California, 1970; produced separately New York, 1976). Published in Evergreen Review (New York), April-May 1964. The Blossom; or, Billy the Kid (produced New York, 1964). Milwaukee, Great Lakes Books, 1967.

The Beard (produced San Francisco, 1965; New York, 1967; London, 1968). Privately printed, 1965; revised version, New York, Grove Press, 1967.

The Shell (produced San Francisco, 1970; London, 1975). London, Cape Goliard Press, 1968; in Gargoyle Cartoons, 1971.

The Cherub (produced Berkeley, California, 1969). Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1970.

The Charbroiled Chinchilla: The Pansy, The Meatball, Spider Rabbit (produced Berkeley, California, 1969). Included in Gargoyle Cartoons, 1971.

Little Odes, Poems, and a Play, The Raptors. Los Angeles, Black Sparrow Press, 1969.

The Brutal Brontosaurus: Spider Rabbit, The Meatball, The Shell, Apple Glove, The Authentic Radio Life of Bruce Conner and Snoutburbler (produced San Francisco, 1970; The Meatball and Spider Rabbit produced London, 1971, New York, 1976; The Authentic Radio Life of Bruce Conner and Snoutburbler produced London, 1975). Included in Gargoyle Cartoons, 1971.

Gargoyle Cartoons (includes The Shell, The Pansy, The Meatball, The Bow, Spider Rabbit, Apple Glove, The Sail, The Dear, The Authentic Radio Life of Bruce Conner and Snoutburbler, The Feather, The Cherub). New York, Delacorte Press, 1971.

The Pansy (produced London, 1972). Included in Gargoyle Cartoons, 1971.

Polymorphous Pirates: The Pussy, The Button, The Feather (produced Berkeley, California, 1972). The Feather included in Gargoyle Cartoons, 1971.

The Mammals (includes The Blossom,!The Feast!, Pillow). San Francisco, Cranium Press, 1972.

The Grabbing of the Fairy (produced Los Angeles, 1973). St. Paul, Truck Press, 1978.

The Pussy, The Button, and Chekhov's Grandmother; or, The Sugar Wolves (produced New York, 1973).

McClure on Toast (produced Los Angeles, 1973).

Gorf (produced San Francisco, 1974). New York, New Directions, 1976.

Music Peace (produced San Francisco, 1974).

The Derby (produced Los Angeles, 1974; revised version produced New York, 1981).

General Gorgeous (produced San Francisco, 1975; Edinburgh, 1976). New York, Dramatists Play Service, 1982.

Two Plays. Privately printed, 1975.

Sunny-Side Up (includes The Pink Helmet and The Masked Choir) (produced Los Angeles, 1976). The Pink Helmet included in Two Plays, 1975; The Masked Choir published in Performing Arts Journal (New York), August 1976.

Minnie Mouse and the Tap-Dancing Buddha (produced San Francisco, 1978). Included in Two Plays, 1975.

Two for the Tricentennial (included The Pink Helmet and The Grabbing of the Fairy) (produced San Francisco, 1976).

Range War (produced Tucson, 1976).

Goethe: Ein Fragment (produced San Francisco, 1977). Published in West Coast Plays 2 (Berkeley, California), Spring 1978.

Josephine the Mouse Singer, adaptation of a story by Kafka (produced New York, 1978). New York, New Directions, 1980.

The Red Snake (produced San Francisco, 1979).

The Mirror (produced Los Angeles, 1979).

Coyote in Chains (produced San Francisco, 1980).

The Velvet Edge. Privately printed, 1982(?).

The Beard, and VKTMS: Two Plays. New York, Grove Press, 1985.

Television Play: The Maze (documentary), 1967.


The Mad Cub. New York, Bantam, 1970.

The Adept. New York, Delacorte Press, 1971.


Meat Science Essays. San Francisco, City Lights, 1963; revised edition, San Francisco, Dave Haselwood, 1967.

Freewheelin' Frank, Secretary of the Angels, as Told to Michael McClure by Frank Reynolds. New York, Grove Press, 1967; London, New English Library, 1974.

Scratching the Beat Surface. Berkeley, California, North Point Press, 1982.

Specks (essays). Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1985.

Lighting the Corners: On Art, Nature, and the Visionary: Essays and Interviews. Albuquerque, New Mexico, University of New Mexico, 1993.

Acorn Alone: A Story for Children. Virginia Beach, Virginia, A.R.E. Press, 1994.

Huge Dreams: San Francisco and Beat Poems. New York, Penguin, 1999.

Touching the Edge: Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha. Boston, Shambhala, 1999.

Editor, with David Meltzer and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Journal for the Protection of All Beings 1 and 3. San Francisco, City Lights, 2 vols., 1961–69.


Bibliography: A Catalogue of Works by Michael McClure 1956–1965 by Marshall Clements, New York, Phoenix Book Shop, 1965.

Manuscript Collections: Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia; University of California, Berkeley.

Critical Studies: "This Is Geryon," in Times Literary Supplement (London), 25 March 1965; interview in San Francisco Poets edited by David Meltzer, New York, Ballantine, 1971, revised edition, as Golden Gate, San Francisco, Wingbow Press, 1976; "Michael McClure Symposium" in Margins 18 (Milwaukee), March 1975; Two Playwrights of the San Francisco Renaissance: Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure (dissertation) by Thomas Whiteford Boeker, n.p., 1979; "Post Modernist Poetics: Four Views" by Kevin Power, in Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (Tenerife, Spain), 2, March 1981; interview with Mitchell Smith, in Kerouac Connection, 26, spring 1994.

Theatrical Activities: Actor: FilmsBeyond the Law, 1968; Maidstone, 1971.

Michael McClure comments:

Poetry is a muscular principle, an athletic song or whisper of fleshly 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 mountaintop or in a subway or view a new perception loping in the distance like a wolf or glimmering like an opal in the twilight.

*  *  *

In A Catalogue of Works by Michael McClure 1956–1965 Marshall Clements lists translations into French, German, Spanish, and Italian. More than three decades ago people recognized Michael McClure's high seriousness. His purpose was not to épater le bourgeois but rather to present, without any moralizing, épatement itself as a process. Postcards, pictures, plays, and poems break through "the preconception of poem and stanzas," as in the 1959 picture of a horse's head and above it a horse with the words "Fuck Death." In "Double Murder! VAHROOOOM!" Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald. At the zoo McClure recorded the lion's roar and his own "beast language" from Ghost Tantras. His play The Beard has actors take roles about real people, Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid, who had become actors in roles in history.

In one play, The Cherub, a bed is an actor and snores, wakes up, speaks, and has a missile countdown while Jesus and Camus "are at it again upstairs." The explosive exuberance leads to a sweetly innocent and still moving conclusion: a naked man and a naked woman repeat "good morning" to each other. A movie of clouds becomes a cluster of grapes. They repeat "yes" to each other. The light flares up and dies out and leaves a cluster of grapes.

The force of the play comes from the interwoven "topologies of reality," as McClure phrases it in a preface to his Rare Angel. The meanings of "topology" cluster around topos (place) and logos (word). A word finds place, "gives birth to itself from the substrate by writing out muscular and body sensations which are the source of thought." His sense of the body-cave, cave-body, the body with open pores, open to the world, and an open system appears in most of his works and in particular in Meat Science Essays. He involves the reader with typographical disjunctions and a vertical tracking down the page. The typography sometimes seems to shape the voice:

so very much useless pain!

A highly varied length of line ventilates an otherwise strict sestina (Antechamber). Capitals sometimes seem to draw attention to a discordia concors:

for Joanna
I shall die with the wrinkled lines
around thy eyes upon my shield
of consciousness,
I confess
I worship thee
and all material things.
Rose petals falling!
The secret loves of wolves!
Deer mice trembling in the snow!
Turquoise set in worn and darkended silver!

This poem, written for Joanna McClure, herself a poet, seems to echo McClure's early sonnets and villanelles in tone and affinity, but the motion remains his own, as in well-established volumes like September Blackberries or Jaguar Skies. All of his poems move. The term "Logos" also implies order and sequence. E-motion is from emovere. The motion of perception is at least as important as the particulars of what is perceived.

One reads on page 9 in McClure's The Daily Vision, "COMING /BACK /THROUGH /THE /SKY"; on page 18, "COMING /BACK /THROUGH /THE /SKY: /COMING /BACK /WITH /OBSESSIONS; / COMING BACK THROUGH THE SKY"; on page 23, "COMING /BACK /THROUGH /THE /SKY /TO THE SUBSTRATE"; on page 30, "THE HOP OF A SILVERFISH //THE AWKWARD HOP OF A SILVERFISH /is perfect!"; on page 31, "COMING / BACK / THROUGH / THE / SKY, / THE /AWKWARD /HOP /OF /A /SILVERFISH /IS /PERFECT." The disparate elements meet, or separate, in the kinetics of perception. The typography and the words create a "flicker of interacting," the effects of will and of luck. The visual image of the conclusion of "The Cherub," a cluster of grapes, has an analogous statement in The Daily Vision: "WE ARE GRAPES. We are aggregates in bunches. BLACK GRAPES."

In Scratching the Beat Surface, a book of poems and prose or, perhaps more accurately, a work in which the words shift in emphasis from the presentational to the discursive, McClure sets forth his broadly expansive affiliations: Creeley and Olson, with openings to Asian sensitivities and also to science, a range best epitomized by a broadside from Slug Press that begins in bold black type with


and concludes with bold type followed by a comment in lowercase:

sense is

—William Sylvester

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McClure, Michael (Thomas)

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