Michael McClure Biography

“As mammals, what is our most important duty on this third stone from the sun? To preserve inspiration and imagination, and to remember that Diane di Prima said:
THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION!”
Michael McClure

Michael McClure was born on October 20, 1932 in Marysville, Kansas and grew up in Seattle, where he was fascinated by nature and wildlife and expected to grow up to be a natural scientist. He went to San Francisco as a young man, participated in a poetry workshop with Robert Duncan, and got drawn into the emerging Beat vortex of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.

In an event seen in retrospect as the beginning of the emerging Beat movement, he joined Philip Lamantia, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and 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 appears as the handsome and happily-married Pat McLear in Kerouac's novel 'Big Sur,' in which Kerouac raves about McClure's poem 'Dark Brown.'

His first book, 'Passage,' was published in 1956. Like Gary Snyder he writes poetry infused with the awareness of nature, but McClure's special interest is in the animal consciousness that too often lies dormant in mankind. He has a consistent message: "When a man does not admit that he is an animal, he is less than an animal. Not more but less.".

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.

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.

Michael McClure is still active as a poet, essayist and playwright. His controversial plays, including 'The Beard' and 'Josephine: The Mouse Singer', were among the major theatre events of the 60's and 70's. In the early 90's he began colloborating on live poetry set to music by Ray Manzarek, the distinctive keyboardist from the Doors.

He gives performances of his poetry at colleges such as Stanford, NYU and The University of Arizona. He also performs at clubs from San Diego to New York as well as festivals in Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. In all these capacities he is a riveting performer. Poetry Flash noted in one review, "McClure -- dressed in black -- stood and uttered his words with a sort of sultry precision. His gestures punctuated his word (a poetry of the body), enthralling, enlisting a dynamic tension between audience and performer that didn't let up until the words stopped."

Michael McClure lives in the San Francisco Bay Area hills with his wife, the sculptor Amy Evans McClure (whose work can be seen at BigBridge Webzine), and "the most spoiled cat on the planet."

Michael McClure website: www.milkmag.org

Michael McClure from The Birth of the Beat Generation:
Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters

Six Poets at Six Gallery

HOME