Michael McClure has been a major poet since his first reading at the famed Six Gallery in 1955, where Allen Ginsberg first read Howl and McClure, Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, and Phillip Whalen founded the movement that became known as the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance and the Beat Generation. In the 1960s, his play The Beard became a huge cause when it was repeatedly censored in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The play was eventually moved to New York where McClure won an Obie Award as its author. The play was also cited by notable playwright Sam Shepard as an important precursor to his work which radically transformed the theater in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the early 1970s, McClure was one of the first writers to popularize the movement to Save the Whales, and his poems and activism have been important to ecology movements ever since. A noted American Buddhist, McClure has written some of the most beautiful and profound poems in that genre. His relation with elders who inspired the San Francisco poetry renaissance, such as Robert Duncan and Charles Olson, has made him a key progenitor of modern writing. McClure’s research into evolutionary biology, biophysics, neurology and other sciences has done as much as any living writer to draw the link between art and science in profound ways of interest to both artists and scientists. McClure’s work has been cited by a variety of leading scientific thinkers, i.e., Francis Crick who received a Nobel for discovery of DNA.
Michael McClure Reading in Las Vegas, KNPR
McClure has also been prominent in the world of rock music. He authored the lyrics to the song “Mercedes Benz” popularized in the classic performance by Janis Joplin. He worked closely with members of The Doors, including encouraging Jim Morrison to publish his poems and performing extensively with Ray Manzarek, the ground –breaking keyboardist. McClure has also maintained other notable music and performance connections, including with Christian McBride and Terry Riley.
His books are from the most important publishers of the era including: Huge Dreams: San Francisco and Beat Poems (Penguin), Scratching the Beat Surface (Penguin), The Beard (Grove Press & Evergreen), Mysteriosos (New Directions), Rain Mirror (New Directions), and Rebel Lions (New Directions).