Michael Thomas McClure was born to Thomas and Marian Dixie Johnston McClure in Marysville, Kansas, and he soon gained a sense of the immensity of the plains. Following the divorce of his parents, he lived in Seattle, Washington, with his maternal grandfather, whose interests included medicine, ornithology, and horticulture. In Seattle, the rich forests and stunning beaches excited McClure’s young imagination. At age twelve, McClure returned to Kansas, where he lived with his mother and her new husband.
In high school, McClure and his friend Bruce Conner developed an interest in abstract expressionist painters, including Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. As a writer, McClure pursued traditional forms and patterns, composing a collection of villanelles as his project for a creative writing course at Wichita University. At the University of Arizona, he studied anthropology and painting, but after meeting Joanna Kinnison, McClure fell in love, married, and traveled with her to San Francisco. Though disappointed not to find Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still teaching in San Francisco, McClure took delight in the Bay Area’s natural splendor. After meeting the poet Robert Duncan, McClure reaffirmed his focus on poetry, exploring the tension between Duncan’s advice to experiment and McClure’s own need to work with traditional forms.
In 1956, McClure’s first publication of his poems—two villanelles dedicated to Theodore...
(The entire section is 418 words.)