Bloom, Harold, and Lehman, David, eds. The Best of the Best
American Poetry. New York: Scribner, 1998. Christian, Graham. "Laws of Gravity." Boston Phoenix (March 30, 1998). Available online. URL: www.desert.net/ww/03-30-98/boston_books_1.html. Downloaded December 2003.
Ellmann, Richard, and Robert O'Clair, eds. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. 2d ed. New York: Norton, 1988.
MCCLURE, MICHAEL (1932- ) Michael McClure was only 23 when he read his poetry at the Six Gallery in San Francisco and, along with Allen ginsberg, among others, helped initiate the beat movement. Since that time he has written more than 40 volumes of poetry, fiction, essays, and plays and continues to experiment with poetry in performance, including his collaborative work with the keyboardist Ray Manzarek (previously of the rock band the Doors). McClure's work has been consistently experimental, with an aim toward communicating thought and emotion in as visceral and physical a manner as language will allow.
McClure was born October 20, 1932—"the same day as Rimbaud" (McClure Ghost Tantras 109)—in Marysville, Kansas, and grew up in Seattle, where he developed an interest in wildlife and the environment. He moved to San Francisco in 1954, enrolled in Robert Duncan's poetry workshop at San Francisco State University, and published his first book of poems, Passage, in 1956. Like Gary snyder, McClure shows a deep concern with nature in his poetry, but McClure's main interests lie less in a descriptive poetry of natural scenery than in the mammalian consciousness he believes is dormant in all human beings. His work has received many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1973) and distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry award from the National Poetry Association (1999).
A primary motive of McClure's art is the discovery of the materiality of consciousness. This theme manifests itself in the way he typographically centers his poems so that they are "allowed . . . to have a body language on the page" (McClure Huge Dreams 168), and in his development during the 1960s of his poetic "beast language," a mode of writing that attempts to convey the very gestures of vocal expression by transcribing vocal sounds without using recognizable words. For example, these two lines from Ghost Tantras (1964), his first extended exploration of beast language, convey desire: "NOH. NAH-OHH / hroor. VOOR-NAH! GAHROOOOO ME" (58).
With the license provided by Charles olson's reconception of the poetic line in terms of the poet's breath (see ars poettcas), McClure developed an approach to poetry that conceives of his media (written text, performed word) as an enactment and extension of the poet's own physical presence. McClure's Meat Science Essays (1963) marked a turning point in his environmental politics and ultimately in his poetics; the predominant aim of his work from this point on became to "revolt against habitual ways of feeling and action" for the sake of " more direct gestures" (McClure 43).
Was this article helpful?