The great poet and Shambhala author/contributor/blurber Michael McClure passed away May 4th, 2020.
Michael was at the heart of the Beats, always listed as one of the shining lights of this group of explorers and creatives.
We published a book of his poetry, Touching the Edge: Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha.
His work appear in our Haiku Mind too.
Here is a sketch of him from The Beat Book, edited by Anne Waldman:
“MICHAEL MCCLURE was born in 1932 in Marysville, Kansas. In 1954 he attended art classes at San Francisco State College and took a poetry workshop given by Robert Duncan in the mid-1950s and performed in a reading of Duncan’s play Faust Foutu. In 1955, McClure joined Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, and the San Francisco surrealist Philip Lamantia at the historic Six Gallery reading. McClure’s early experimental writings included ‘‘Peyote Poem,’’ written while on the sacramental peyote plant, and ‘‘Dark Brown,’’ a wildly erotic sexual vision. His book Ghost Tantras restored what he called ‘‘beast language’’ to poetry—growls, moans, coos, whimpers, and roars intermingling with prayer and celebration in lexically recognizable human speech. He achieved underground fame through a succession of plays, including the sexy, terrifying ‘‘The Beard.’’ McClure’s poetry remains grounded in a biological and spiritual sensibility (‘‘Consciousness is a real thing like the hoof of a deer . . .’’). McClure is also a chronicler of the innovative and liberating poetries of the fifties and sixties—his Scratching the Beat Surface is a book-length account of the period written by one of its active members. His ecological activism is expressed in poems like the angry ‘‘For the Death of 100 Whales,’’ and his appearance with Gary Snyder at the U.N. Environmental Conference in Stockholm in 1972. He has published more than twenty books, including Rain Mirror: New Poems and Plum Stones: Cartoons of No Heaven. He has also worked extensively with Ray Manzarek, the The Doors' keyboardist, and with the experimental composer and musician Terry Riley.”
He also recently blurbed our Some Unquenchable Desire:
“"Imagine you are Percy Shelley sleeping in your favorite snoozing place among the ancient ruins in Pisa, and you awaken to the Sanskrit poems of Bhartrihari instead of to the Greek poets and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Will your new poems be splashed with eroticism and awakened with rich theology? Unknown thoughts and imagined odors tremble at your ears like mosquitoes at Behemoth’s nose. Bhartrihari’s poems are wealthy in the loved sciences—Natural History—and the mammal solidity of exciting emotions changing shape. Breasts and honeyed Lips, not chockablock metamorphoses. Andrew Schelling's genius has given us Bhartrihari's great gifts of overwhelming beauty. Never have Entertainment and Loveliness so melted together!"
And finally, here he is talking about his poetry in our Hard to Be a Saint in the City (https://www.shambhala.com/hard-to-be-a-saint-in-the-city-15…):
“My poetry is to make myself conscious. And my poetry is to illuminate a reader, if he or she is interested, with what I’ve been able to do with my consciousness, which may be of use to them on their own. Perhaps my poetry is to broaden my sensorium, and hopefully it will broaden the sensoriums of other individuals who read it. In other words, the function of poetry, as I see it, is to create a myriad-mindedness. I see myself wholly as an artist, as a poet. I am not a utopian. I’m not a socio-biological thinker. But I do align myself with a movement or a thread or a stream or a surge of individuals who are interested in liberation of the body, in the liberation of the imagination and the liberation of consciousness. In that sense, we may be of help to those who begin to deal with the situations that need to be dealt with. I constantly ask biologists, botanists, or bio-philosophers what we may do, what we may think about, what the situation is. That’s reflected in my poetry. I’m an artist.”
Thank you for your artistry Michael!