Beat Generation Writer
Born 78 years to the day (October 20) after the birth of the French poet Rimbaud, Michael McClure was one of the six poets to read at the famous Six Gallery event in October 1955. That night McClure read, among several other selections, Point Lobos: Animism and For the Death of 100 Whales. These poems are very representative of McClure and his work which forms a bridge between poetry and science, nature and spirit.
Rimbaud was an important influence on the Beat Generation writers (Jack Kerouac wrote a poem in 1960 about Rimbaud). The altered states of consciousness associated with the Beats' use of drugs and alcohol is a direct reflection of Rimbaud's influence.
In 1958, after having been turned on to the hallucinogenic effects of peyote by the Los Angeles painter and photographer, Wallace Berman, McClure wrote Peyote Poem, describing the psychedelic experience. Two lines from that poem were used by the scientist Francis Crick in his book Of Molecules and Men describing Crick and Watson's discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA.
McClure is the biologist as poet. He represents the Beat Generation's understanding of the new world that science was creating. Commenting on the Nobel laureate scientist's use of his poetry, McClure writes: "Crick's use of those lines shows the important, yet little known reaching out from science to poetry and from poetry to science that was part of the Beat Generation" (Scratching the Beat Surface, page 11).
McClure, born in Kansas, grew up in Seattle. Bruce Conner, experimental movie-maker, collagist, and founder of the Rat Bastard Protective Association (McClure was a member) was a high school friend. In 1954, McClure moved to San Francisco. He met Jack Kerouac the following year.
If Kerouac was the Beat Generation's first priest, then McClure was the Beat Generation's first biologist. The Beats' attempted synthesis of science and spirit was initially undertaken in Kerouac's Mexico City Blues, written in 1955, just before McClure and Kerouac met. McClure was greatly influenced by Mexico City Blues. He calls it Kerouac's masterpiece, "a religious poem startling in its majesty and comedy and gentleness and vision." (Scratching the Beat Surface, page 71).
McClure is now an elder statesman of the Beat Generation, a paradoxical state of affairs if you think about it. He moved through the 1960s involved in the counter-culture, attending another historic event in San Francisco, the 1967 Human Be-In. He continues to be interested in science, poetry and music.
McClure wrote the words to a song made popular by Janis Joplin, "Mercedes Benz" and has produced poetry/music pieces with musicians such as Ray Manzarek, the former piano player for The Doors. McClure wrote the "Afterword" to No One Here Gets Out Alive, a biography of Jim Morrison.
It is our essential relationship to nature and the animals of nature that McClure uses to investigate the humanity of our species.
Michael McClurePitching Record YEAR TEAM ERA W L IP ER BB K 1985 Beats 3.65 6 16 207 84 83 104 1991 Beats 3.45 12 11 190 73 90 100 1992 Beats 3.67 10 14 216 88 90 116 1993 Beats 3.73 11 11 195 81 82 117 1994 Beats 2.89 9 17 218 70 77 124 1995 Beats 2.62 4 4 106 31 47 65 1996 Beats 3.41 3 3 111 42 29 70 7 Seasons 3.40 55 76 1243 469 498 696
Michael McClure Links
Links to McClure's Work Online
Self-Experience of the Other Poem by McClure
McClure at MysticFire
McClure at Literary Kicks
When a man does not admit that he is an animal, he is less than an animal. Not more but less. I have heard that Mozart signed letters to his sister with endearing obscenities such as "a kiss on the bottom to my darling sister." Watch young animals at play, the endearments, the mutual explorations and cleanings, the investigations. In the human realm these cub activities are forbidden or left in the secrecy of dark closets, basements, and silent bedrooms. Mozart might be merry, tortured, brooding, serious, all at once. An animal lives in many states. The man who cannot see that he is an animal is trapped in a maze with a beginning and an end. The beginning is obviously birth and the end is apparently death.
--Michael McClure, "Mozart and the Apple"
1997 Dharma Beats Roster
1997 Michael McClure Cosmic Player Plate
Published: December 24, 1996
© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association