Michael McClure McClure, Michael (Vol. 6) - Essay

McClure, Michael (Vol. 6)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

McClure, Michael 1932–

McClure is an American experimental poet, playwright, essayist, and the author of a novel, The Adept. He was associated with the "San Francisco Renaissance" of the 1950s and is best known for The Beard, his play in which the central characters are named Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-22.)

"The Adept" is a novel of revolt against the human state, against all those passions that make us ache for and from each other. As Nicholas [the protagonist] disconnects himself from the world with a little hash and cocaine, his very withdrawal seems to be a political act, the core of a mind-boggling revolt. (p. 10)

McClure whirls Nicholas through terror, denial and heights of feelthink in a shattering vision of a desperate, shallow man trying to escape himself. And up against a psychic wall, in the very face of his terror, he mutates. This "adept" believes in a transmigration of bodies, a change akin to madness, in which the body stays intact and the self vanishes. He burns his identity cards, has wonderful visions, and says: "I am the Universe, I am meat, I am a man."

Nicholas's transmigrating body has all the force of some poor migrant worker, lumbering on to another labor camp. Yet it is precisely his exhaustion, his sense of how hard it is to be alive, to endure change or feel feelings that grip you. McClure has written a wild book about a man who adores his body, but hates himself, hates the fact of being full of murder.

What breaks through … McClure's mysticism … is a terrible sense of people as grotesque, doomed to weakness or rage and fighting to get away from themselves, from that awful truth so gently put by Pogo: "We have met the enemy and they are us." (p. 12)

Josephine Hendin, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 20, 1971.

In its dazzling descriptions of surface detail, its fascination with sensory perceptions, and its insistence on the value of style rather than story, [The Adept] is reminiscent of Irving Rosenthal's beautiful and neglected novel Sheeper (1967). The narrator is Nicholas, a maddeningly self-absorbed cocaine dealer…. Nicholas's life seems to consist entirely of meditating, dealing, turning on, watching himself make love, and zooming about on his Harley, and McClure's precise, clean prose succeeds in brilliantly assaulting us with how all that feels. (There is also a Burroughs-ish big-time drug scene inhabitant, etched here with exactly the right proportions of fragility, petulance, and evil.) But if McClure wants us to understand the beauty of yoga unity and the Nirvana state of oneness with the universe that Nicholas aspires to here (and apparently he does want us to, for much of the body of his poetry and drama is based on it), it's strange that he's chosen the dealer personality of Nicholas to act it out for us: In all the deadly serious chest-beating, muscle-flexing, "chick"-fascinated ingredients of his character, Nicholas is more ridiculous than he is either mad, funny, or substantial, a creepy, super macho Easy Rider of the imagination. This novel is being presented as "a trip"; it is, but as a sage once said: Never trip with someone you don't like: It's a bummer. (p. 2)

Sara Blackburn, in Book World (© The Washington Post), August 15, 1971.

There is that sense about McClure that he is mining a kind of cosmic toothache, that he is poking around in the smaller intestines of the psyche. McClure likes to take reality and palpitate it, to take the inner workings of things and stretch them in a funhouse seizure….

As I see it, McClure has trouble knowing when to stop and ["The Pussy," "The Button", and "Chekhov's Grand-mother"] suffer from a sense of random perpetualness that mars his otherwise fine sense of the form of things. (p. 49)

Arthur Sainer, in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1974), January 3, 1974.

Wolf Net, and poems related immediately to it, indicate the relationship of McClure's active beliefs, developed during the last fifteen years or more, to the wider ecological field, emerging in the 1960s, and to the analysis of a possibly prerevolutionary society in the writings of Herbert Marcuse. It is this set of involvements, as well as the sheer uniqueness of his poetic voice and its forms, that places McClure centrally. (p. 6)

Like Whitman, McClure envisages the universe as "single flow, vibration, or aura" of interrelationships. His knowledge of biology, chemistry and physics supports his transcendental vision, and his image of interpersonal relationships, in ways which reinforce the nineteenth-century Romantic synthesis. Wolf Net is without mysticism and takes its place within what Herbert Marcuse calls "a systematic desublimation of culture" (Counter-Revolution and Revolt, 1972 …). McClure thinks and perceives in a time when "we cannot perceive an anti-matter universe" but know the evidence for it. Similarly, he is aware that touch is augmented by living in a number of energy fields, some we are not yet aware of, although "when they are discovered they will be considered physical." In 1969, he published "The Surge" as a separate work (it … is reprinted in Star, 1970)…. In this work, ecology includes men whose written conclusions we inherit. The "surge" is not limited to some exclusively naturalistic and therefore fallacious behaviourism (the sense in which B. F. Skinner is part of the fascism of behavioural romanticism: c.f. Jacques Barzun: Romanticism and the Modern Ego, 1943, on the argument from 'nature' and its relation to totalitarian political philosophy). McClure writes in Wolf Net: "All life is a single unitary surge, a single giant organism—even a single spectacular protein molecule." But its complex topology is neither closed nor entirely perceived, nor are its boundaries rigid (c.f. Norman O. Brown: Love's Body, 1968, the section entitled "Boundary," and Robert J. Lifton: Boundaries: Psychological Man in Revolution, 1970)….

Where the behavioural mechanist cannot tolerate or imagine a future change in men and environment, McClure's universe is "the possibilities of our being"….

Unlike the inheritors of the Darwinian-Spencerian concept of evolutionary hierarchy as permission for the human to dominate, both other human beings and the earth as a whole (followed by the solar system), McClure's model is lateral and participatory, and measure and evaluation begin at this point, even if they are usually employed as shields against what we are. For McClure technology, the inventive result of measure, and "civilizational construction" must either be transcended or yielded to. Poems in Star (1970) testify to the dialectics of the situation. (p. 7)

Part 2 of Wolf Net examines the implications of "one unifying, unified, seemingly inescapable, biocidal world society", and the possible results of that "geopolitical reassessment" taking place among the world's younger generations. The attack on youth increases as the totality senses their understanding rather than their impulsive physical riot. Part of reassessment must be "ways of emptying the sensory system" in order to regain the tantra of men and women as "mammals and gods and goddesses" and not eternal reenactors of destructive rites (the action, for instance, of Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid in The Beard). Methods include yoga, drugs, Subud, trance dancing—practices through which to live "a mindless purely biological state", to gain or regain euphoric states of mammal awareness, the body itself as "the neuron screen" freed from societal accumulations: "To feel the body as the universe of life and the universe of matter simultaneously is nearly, or possibly transcendental. Emptying the mind is a whiting-out through feed-back. It is restful and seems sane."…

Whitman's "joy and euphoria" was depleted along with the minerals, plants and animals. The necessary corrective "new lifestyles" begin, therefore, with acknowledging "the cousinship of living creatures" in "the surge". (p. 9)

The Wolf Net is a net of love within the surge; it assumes that all states of consciousness have the same chemical energy and that ecological communication is possible. (p. 10)

McClure has from the beginning needed to ascertain, against Christian and other prescriptions, that mammalian life is a free a-moral function of the universe to which a man may return and on which he may rely during a time of human destructiveness such as the twentieth century's accumulating catastrophes enforces. (p. 11)

Eric Mottram, "The Romantic Politics of the Body in Michael McClure", in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 6-12.

McClure's poetry has been better understood by the lions at the San Francisco Zoo at feeding time than by American poetry lovers….

No contemporary poet has

1. written with more energy than Michael McClure.

2. celebrated a sheer physical existence as a means of spiritual enlightenment so persistently and so tellingly.

3. better synthesized the conflicting female-male elements of our natures—Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid being the archetypal. McClure is a major love poet.

4. moved as deeply into a vehement madness: he destroys in order to recreate a vibrant sanity.

5. allowed sheer sound to exist as MANTRA: McClure writes a pure MANTRIC POETRY without any trappings OM-wise, etc. from the far east or from Jeremiah and other ranting Old Testament prophets.

6. been so unabashedly ROMANTIC in these days of cynicism and depression: McClure is a son of Blake, Swedenbourg, Shelley, Whitman, Cummings.

7. Etc., etc. etc. (p. 16)

McClure's writing is like action painting: spontaneous. The reader is to re-experience the excitement McClure felt writing the poems. The energy screaming (at times) streaming (at others) is as important as any direct poetic statement the reader might receive, of a traditional sort. McClure fractures the expected and the preconditioned poetic response. Communication, obviously, is a tone, an excitement, a fear, a sexual connection, a discharge. The act of the Poem is MANTRIC: chanting, caressing, shouting, shitting, or breathing. The poem is cleansing and spiritual. Communication is also the conveying of non-verbal ideas spread like warm honey on the slabsurfaces of the mind, giving it from my mind over to yours, from McClure's mind over to ours. As MAMMALIAN COMMUNICATOR, McClure ennobles Man, since he (man) reachieves or recognizes the MANTRIC FORCE of language. The Lamb's Baa responds lovingly to the GRAAH of the lion and meshes with it. Jean Harlow responds with lascivious purrs to Billy the Kid's growlings and chest-beatings…. Declaiming the delicious sound GRAAAH freshens our spirit-nodes; we vibrate with recharged life. McClure's beast (mammal) language is LOVE: we are to form these strange sounds with abandon and pleasure, with love-explosives, love-verbal-fun-ejaculations. (pp. 16-17)

We abandon our common puritanic notions about poems. Poems are not necessarily always meant to be recollected in tranquility, rendered into prose equivalents, read in vicaresque tones, or worshipped: they are to be LIVED as part of one's blood stream, fingers and/or genitals. We experience FOUNTS OF ENERGY WELLING WITHIN OURSELVES and we luxuriate in pure sounds of animal excitement freed of objects. Our response is spontaneous, sensuous (sensual). Our abandon is childlike, trusting, innocent, Blakean. We resonate SPIRIT, BODY, MIND as JOY. Life may be bleared and seared but it is not hopelessly contaminated.

McClure's poems are healthful and restorative, and if we are into them the actor in us emerges. And this actor is the AGENT EXTENSION of our MEATSPIRIT SELVES: without him we would be zombies. A PRIMAL SCREAM releases us into life. McClure would free this ACTORAGENT thereby enhancing poetry as a sung-shouted-declaimed-primal experience….

In his essay "Reason" (in Meat Science Essays) McClure describes his SPONTANEOUS MAN, he lies in sunlight on the forest floor with his eyes closed. He exercises, stretching, as yogis do. His mind is a large blackness. He gives himself completely to the sheer pleasure of his muscle-life. "He groans, writhes, twists, denies himself nothing that the sinew and tendons and lungs and heart request." His consciousness is a "blank field." He ceases to measure time. His life is the splendid animal play of muscles establishing a subcurrent rhythm, creating a pattern in space….

To McClure, poetry "comes straight in through the senses and combines imagination with distortion." And there must be "joy and pleasure." McClure's equation is: the greater the joy and pleasure one experiences, the greater the energy one feels in one's life. He is an enemy of moderation. The human on the floor stretching his muscles and snarling mammal sounds in sunlight acknowledges the fact that there have always been "secret hopes and desires." The notion of "levels of existence" McClure rejects as a "kind of modern psychological folklore." The stretching mammal-man via his physical act portrays his belief "that matter is spirit and the meat is the container." We are so conditioned to think of meat as something cut up to be sold in supermarkets or fed to lions, cats, and dogs, that we have almost entirely lost the positive connotations of the word—these McClure restores. His aware, alive man requires no logic to comprehend his destiny: "stretching his leg and twisting the muscles of his arms in pleasure creates reason. The pearl gleaming on flesh in the light is an act of reason!"

I find this statement absolutely central to receiving McClure's plays and his poems. Until we are willing to enjoy the spontaneity of the human-mammal on the forest floor, and dispense with commonplace notions of what poems and plays are supposed to do, we shall miss a truly unique poetic experience. Poetry is Action. Poetry is Explosion.

Of course, there are earlier models for McClure's ecstasy. Shelley and Walt Whitman, to name two: Shelley's romantic exclamations and his willingness to risk overstatement for the sake of a fervid personal truth. Whitman's unabashed energy: his "urge, urge, urge" is reflected in McClure's. (p. 17)

Robert Peters, "The Poem as Spirit-Meat or Michael McClure's Corpus of Poems are Delecti," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 16-20.

McClure reminds me of Mailer: both of them covet the (animal) beauty of the mindless ones (although McClure, having checked it out, is much more aware of just what it is and what to call it) and wish to (1) impose it upon the tightassed coteries of cultural officialdom—make 'em cool that out, if only they can—with their frightened rodent faces confusedly staring, and (2) blow 'em away even further (& impress the ladies, too) by running with the Dionysian bulls, in full view, and lookin' good at it….

Like Mailer, he doesnt mind letting his powerful ego overwhelm you via a show of superior access into the (true) workings of things, and this narrated with authoritative flair.

That is, perhaps, one of McClures principal saving graces: hes brilliant…. Banal he may sometimes be, but not dumb. Practically every page of MSE [Meat Science Essays] has something of interest on it and some of those pages practically sag under the weight of absorbing insight.

If youre going to get off on reading MSE, youd best approach it as you would poetry, digging on the brilliant insights as the equivalent of good lines. Like the ritual master that I take a shaman to be, McClure isnt particularly interested in (1) rival ideas & conceptual schemes of equal validity (2) the ease with which, perhaps utilizing (1), his set of beliefs could be criticized, called into serious question, maybe even totally discredited….

Hes secured a niche as one of the original and characteristic minds of the day, and one of the few men whose ouevre consistently reflects a vision some miles away from the nearest of kin.

His observations on animals go far towards helping to restore them as kin rather than mere "creatures", recognizing their archetypal beauty, their pitiless yet spiteless grace and their unique (so often ignored or uncomprehended) modes of awareness, of communicative potential. His words on the gyrfalcon at the end of "Reflections After A Poem" stand as a recrimination to all of those blighted souls who refuse to feel and understand the wonder of an animal. McClure is attempting to reach across the gulf weve made to hint at languages weve long forgotten, though they remain part of our heritage. (p. 20)

A few phrases can convey much of the brunt of McClures ideological message: "revolt is the search for health and naturality", "Let us be the fullest thing it is possible to be", modified by "what greater thing is there than to fill out the fullness of being a mammal", which is further modified & even a bit turned around by "revolt is the constant reformation of the body image until it is exactly spirit".

I suspect youd have to go through MSE before those quotes assume full meaning. McClure assigns his own interpretations and connotations to words….

One finds strains of Rosseauvian faith in the natural man, self-fulfillment ethics, anarchy and Eastern metaphysics. Perhaps, in all of his poetic incisiveness, he may be closest of all in spirit to Nietsche, may even be our contemporary version of him & could probably be just as easily subverted by a contemporary fascist propaganda machine.

For, although McClure seems thoroughly anarchistic (a profile of the McClurean hero in action can be obtained from a short novel called "The Adept" and the hero actually has foibles, nicely removing him from the would-be superman class and down a few pegs closer to believability, regardless of his preoccupations), and too organic for the little boxes of political protocol, his fatal jettisoning of the mind (de rigueur, it seems, for regressive utopians seeking the adam weve lost touch with) leaves him wide open for (1) rather unmodified exaltation of the force of brute physicality in its elitist aspects, sans (2) the accompanying "spirituality", which, in its eternal nebulousness, can be faked or distorted to suit—havent we seen that done before and often?

Groovy as it can get, one must finally leave the world of McClure & look elsewhere for the badly needed solutions to pressing problems. Spirituality and animality ("Meat consciousness", or whatever it is to be called) are not identical despite McClures tendency to fuse them into one feeling-state. Man can no longer be trusted to fill a preordained ecological niche nondestructively as an instinct-guided "animal" with no hangups to derail him. Hes come too far into the battle of appropriating the mental side of his nature to hand to be able to turn back on it. Quite the contrary, man can only press on to the next and long-overdue "leap into the unknown" which awaits him—heightened spiritual consciousness.

McClure is impatient with mentality, perhaps (at best) because it is inadequate to negotiate the passage into spiritual consciousness. It is, however, a necessary component of mans nature (if much abused) and its removal would leave a gaping, unmendable hole in mans psyche (soul).

Even when McClures version of spirituality can be separated from the realm of "meat" sensation at all, it still partakes too much of the sensual….

Finally, my inclinations distrust any system willing, yea anxious, to dispense with philosophy. Forget that that discipline is currently enduring a slump, such are the shifting fortunes of all temporal endeavours. Shamans are, after all, a form of priest, arent they? Discrediting alien (heretical) inquiry is a notorious priestcraftly wile—the Renaissance Catholics were unseated by just such inquiry and the science which was born of it, just as the orthodoxy of that science needs now to give way to a new kind of spiritual consciousness (one where, hopefully, priests and shamans will not plague us with their personal power trips, though that may be too much to ask of human beings, ever).

But McClures world is part of you if you ever enjoyed playing with a dog or riding a horse on the edges of the desert or just rolling around under the sun in muscle-tensing (what stretching cats do) euphoria, as the man depicted at the outset of the "Reason" essay does. A salvo of lion growls for Michael McClure! (p. 21)

Rich Mangelsdorff, "A Consideration of Michael McClure's Meat Science Essays," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 20-1.

What appeals to me most about Michael's poems is the fury and imagery of them. I love the vividness of his reactions and the very personal turns and swirls of the lines. The worlds in which I myself live, the private world of personal reactions, the biological world (animals and plants and even bacteria chase each other through the poems), the world of the atom and molecule, the stars and the galaxies, are all there; and in between, above and below, stands man, the howling mammal, contrived out of "meat" by chance and necessity. If I were a poet I would write like Michael McClure—if only I had his talent. (p. 24)

Francis Crick, "The Poetry of Michael McClure: A Scientist's View," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 23-4.

McClure's sense of the poem as organic extension of the poet, expressed most clearly in Hymns to St. Geryon/Dark Brown, most dramatically in Ghost Tantras, and most recently in Rare Angel, vivifies the abstract, scholarly suggestion that for some cultures words are things. Reading McClure's poetry provides some keys to understanding … that the word has form and substance, being, independent of the mind or the voice, a palpable existence, a life of its own.

The most startlingly new thing in Hymns to St. Geryon is the plasmic coming to shape of the word and the poem in Hymn I ("The Gesture"). Here projective verse reaches its logical end; the poem becomes "a body of words". The idea, the message, of the poem will not swing, until McClure picks it up by the tail and strikes the reader with it. Words are poets' gestures, projectiles—objects, at least—aimed at the reader. Poetry is a sneak attack, the swinging cat, and must assault, not because the poet wants to attack, but because of the ponderous inadequacies of prose and logic….

If the poem is an organism, then the words are the cells of the creature. Our cultural education has trained us to think of language in terms that are mechanistic, inorganic, abstract. McClure's poetry demands a different sensibility. The words are on the page, but they don't stay there. The poem does not exist on the page; it flows from McClure through the page to the reader and takes its home in the cells of memory in our brains. This sense of the form of language, the character of the word, resembles that of the traditional American Indian. (p. 25)

The physical showing forth, the evocation of tangible presence, in Michael McClure's poetry is his unique skill. It has characterised his verse since Hymns to St. Geryon. It flows from the sense of the nature of language that impelled him to distribute the key words in The Beard on slips of paper among its audiences: the viewer participates in the language of the play, because a word of it is somehow his. In Rare Angel, he continues the fleshing out of his vision. The word/cells of the poem are the living particles of an angel-body, organic, representing the unity of history and prehistory, protozoa and star…. The poem tracks from mind-world to nature-world, from laughing bluejays to star-ships; the reader is invited to spread his imagination to fill the volume of the poem. The poem is a river, and we are the river; it flows, and the voices and scenes of the poem flow within it. These plasmed word organisms are McClure's gift, stretching, flowing like honey, flowing like glaciers. This is McClure's power: the magic evocation of palpable form, the shaman's recognition of the passionate sensuality of the glacier and star, the intent seriousness of amoeba, planaria, and bee. (p. 26)

Mick McAllister, "Cells from the Body of Silence: Michael McClure and American Indian Poetry," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 24-6.

Anyone who has drawn inspiration from the visionary poets of France and England will delight in the work of Michael McClure. He has brought them up to date, so to speak, continuing a quality of perception and experience in our epoch. This is not a question of tradition so much as initiation and study. Read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's note which prefaces Meat Science Essays for [an] example of European thought confronting the energic beyond, McClure's mind opened with plants and good company. The work, as I read it, is the narrative of birth and the unfolding of human form from the back seat of a car in the early 50's into the present and not over yet. Viewed in this way, all the writing comprises pieces of a long story in which the author, as hero, explores the unknown—first his own body, then what lies "outside" of it. (p. 26)

Al Glover, "Let Us Be Meat to Nourish Each Other, That We All May Grow," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 26-7.

"September Blackberries" is about many things, but mostly it deals with freedom—not merely internal or external freedom but true freedom, the kind that comes with the bursting of all bonds like a river breaking loose from the weight of winter ice. McClure says again and again "WE ARE FREE"…. It's a theme which has concerned him most of his life…. The poems here are liberating, but McClure gives no guidelines or solutions for being free. He seems to feel there are no solutions, that life itself is the solution, and that being open to the limitless potential of our own meat is freedom. The poet's belief and vision run so deep that one comes away from the poems knowing that what he has read is the truth. (pp. 27-8).

Steve Sanfield, "On McClure's 'September Blackberries'," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 27-8.

[Rare Angel,] perhaps [McClure's] purest, most personal work to date …, continues and enlarges the themes of Dark Brown, Ghost Tantras, and Star—[his] personal vision/obsession of which, from early on, the most constant, most centic image has been meat, meat science, spirit-meat, meat walls ("walls do not change to pearls," he said once), separation, the biologick morphologies, cells….

He possesses an eye which zooms from the furthermost focus to the nearest, and any (or all) of the sight-notches in-between, they too seem to occur somehow. The lines spark a blur of moments, brief illusory sensations of cognizance, spine-bright recognition. He casts spells. (p. 29)

David Southern, "On McClure's 'Rare Angel'," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 29-32.

[The] eleven short plays … in the collection entitled Gargoyle Cartoons … are odd, kinky, bizarre, confusing, profound, and deceptively complex/simple. They are the literary offspring of Ring Lardner's Triget of Giva, Ionesco, Dadaism, Theatre of the Absurd and the monkey-manicmusing of Zen-beat madmen. Some are pointless: like a tree or a drop of rain…. Doubtless McClure's pieces are meant to free us from linear locked-in Newtonian purposefulness of PROGRESS, BUSINESS, SUCCESS, RESPECTABILITY. For most human beings life is a huge pointless mass of garbage, rubbish, jelly and trash; and their pathetic purpose in life is to obfuscate said 'pointlessness'. For these ego-oppressed people, McClure's plays might be as mind-boggling/emancipating and yes—as demoralizing as the Sermon on the Mount….

McClure's plays are quaintly cruel, quite Artaudian yet Mack Sennet silent-movie cruel; painless, bloodless, sorrowless. Olympian, the way the gods view mortal woe, the way adults view the tears of children whose lollipops have been lost. For such are the stages and levels of life that one man's horror is another man's ha-ha. And so too, in McClure, the pain is about as felt as last July's Baltimore-Chicago baseball game. Still, to profoundly comprehend pain calls for some wisdom, some love and … some luck! (p. 32)

The beautiful thing about the McClure plays, because he is primarily a poet, is the joyous sense of fun-and-games one can have from reading/seeing them. His language/symbolism/characters/plot/stage directions are a hotbed of laughs and learning to both the sophisticated and the naive. (p. 33)

J. Pyros, "On the Short Plays of McClure," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 32-3.

More than anyone I have known [McClure] seems committed to further unfolding, to the actualization of his being and his art. In going beyond his excellences he also transcends his flaws, both categories being only scintillations in the observer's mind. When I read his earlier poems, some of them struck me as unnecessarily discordant. I later realized they were documents of discovery. He stood within them as a living, up-and-outreaching organism, not a writer of stuffing for literary anthologies. Since then his poems, essays, and incredible plays have opened multidimensional doors of vision and understanding. They are as mercurial and alive as his sense of humor in offhanded moments….

I think his writings have made many people realize that the universe is itself spirit and not an article of commerce or a moral gymnasium.

Sterling Bunnell, "Mercurial and Alive," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, p. 39.

McClure's poetry shows us that words can become strange & rich again, & that as physical extensions of the body they carry reverberations of the whole history of man's evolution. [He] moves towards making language satisfy a spiritual condition….

McClure makes no distinction between mind & body. He argues that if the mind is in error it will be reflected in the body. The point is well taken in a society that feeds us distractions & traps us in our pride. Ferlinghetti's encapsuling of McClure as an incurable romantic only, exemplifies how afraid the rational mind is of getting wet. McClure's work, certainly, is engaged in acts of revolt, but the thrust has always been & continues to be towards redefinition & relocation. (p. 46)

Movement, a key definition of animal condition, becomes a poetic principle—it amounts to the process of exchange between man & his surroundings: the necessary interdependence. (p. 47)

McClure wants self-definition, the rediscovery of his mammal self, & the marking out of the shape of his own particular sitio…. Activity generates its own satisfaction. Reason for McClure is a major gain—not the capacity to simply think correctly but to act correctly, & by acting he doesn't simply mean doing but assuming one's proper place…. It is reason that leads man to take his place in the universe & to enact his own being in the fullness of what such activity means…. Reason then is not a product of the intellect as the Philosophers of the Enlightenment argued but a product of the 'accreting body of the meat intellectivity of men'. Not intellect but intellectivity—a crucial distinction for McClure. The intellectivity takes its essential sustenance from meditation & physical experience; information from books & media is simply a secondary source. The implication is, of course, that the individual has to set about realising his own physical experience. There are no evangelisms—the self must not relinquish its responsibility. McClure moves towards a massive simplification where Religion, Politics, & Humanism become heads of the same Medusa…. In Rare Angel he insists that bio-alchemical investigations—concerns with the shapes & meanings of bodies—are inseparable from poetics…. Getting back into our bodies takes us back into the larger body of the Universe & in this way the poem becomes one with living matter. This is not a simple regression to a former mammal condition or a simple submergence in meditative disciplines but a process of accretion…. The key definition of living matter for McClure is its constant movement. Movement must become a dominant factor in the life of man & through a kind of osmosis a key to the poem itself. The poet internalises his desire for movement in the act of writing & the poem becomes the body's field—a parallel structure not a metaphor for the activity of man. (pp. 47-8)

McClure's purpose is to reexamine the western sense of movement as incompleteness—a concept that may have contributed much to our idea of progress but even more to our growing dissatisfaction & frustration. He is calling for a vital destructuring of our system. (p. 48)

McClure's body-language includes pure animal sounds which carry through their sheer physicality a natural communication…. It's this same quality of sound as meaning in itself that attracts him to Anglo Saxon: the primal richness of naming…. McClure found, in Anglo-Saxon, sounds capable of defining territories he knew he'd explored in himself but had no names for…. The naming carries the intensity of the identification of emotion & act. The capacity to name in this way comes from the fact that the whole range of senses are aroused & active. The words are part of physiology & part consequently of man's own definition of himself….

McClure's poetry inhales & exhales his surrounding world. Whatever is taken in is given back in altered condition. McClure wants his poetry to be conscious of this process & to be a part of its life-giving ritual. (p. 49)

K. C. Power, "Wolf Rimbaud Snow-Leopard Harlow Blossom Frick Star Pollock Angel Odum Meat Michael McClure," in Margins (copyright © 1975), March, 1975, pp. 46-52.