Beat poet Michael McClure, RIP

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Esteemed Beat poet Michael McClure has died of complications from a stroke he suffered last year. He was 87 years old. A key figure in the 1950s San Francisco scene that formed around Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin’s City Lights Bookstore, McClure was a contemporary of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Philip Lamantia. Along with his ecstatic, rhythmic poems, McClure also penned plays, songs, novels, and journalism for the likes of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Above, McClure reads his poetry to lions in 1966 for the USA: Poetry television series. From the New York Times:


A then 22-year-old McClure helped organize the famous Six Gallery beat poetry reading on Oct. 7, 1955, and later read at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park that launched the Summer of Love in 1967 and at The Band’s “Last Waltz” concert at Winterland in 1976[…]


In McClure’s 1982 nonfiction account of the Six Gallery reading, “Scratching the Surface of the Beats,” he set the stage for the revolution that was to follow in the mid-1950s:


“The world that we tremblingly stepped out into in that decade was a bitter, gray one,” he wrote. “We saw that the art of poetry was essentially dead — killed by war, by academies, by neglect, by lack of love, and by disinterest. We knew we could bring it back to life.”





image: crop of “Michael McClure, photograph by Gloria Graham during the taping of Add-Verse, 2004,” Onehandclapping (CC BY-SA 3.0)


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