Michael McClure Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Michael McClure is the author of more than twenty plays. A production in New York of The Beard (pr., pb. 1965) won Obie Awards for best play and best director. In 1978, McClure’s Josephine, the Mouse Singer was produced at the WPA Theatre in New York and won the Obie Award for Best Play of the Year.

McClure’s autobiographical novel The Mad Cub (1970) set many of the central themes, moods, and goals for his writing. Meat Science Essays (1963) provides scientific and ecological background for McClure’s other writings. Scratching the Beat Surface (1982) and Lighting the Corners (1993) offer theories of art, memoirs of the Beat generation, and interviews.

McClure’s work as an editor is revealed in Ark II, Moby I (1957) and Journal for the Protection of All Beings (1961). Performances by McClure have been recorded on video in Love Lion (1991) and in the audio recording Howls, Raps, and Roars (1993). He may also be seen in the film The Source (2000).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Michael McClure has been committed to full and open exploration of consciousness, perception, sexual fulfillment, and artistic action. To this end, McClure pursued an interdisciplinary approach to his work. He argues against environmental destruction and seeks to protect and enhance the planet. In all, he stands as a positive and unifying force in art, science, literature, and ecology. Often published through small presses dedicated to artistry in the making of books, his work reflects a combination of spontaneous creativity and enduring, specialized publication.

McClure has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and has won the Alfred Jarry Award(1973), several Obie Awards for his theater work, and a Pushcart Prize (1991). The National Poetry Association honored McClure for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry in 1993, and he received the Northern California Book Award in poetry in 1999 for Touching the Edge.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Jacob, John, ed. “Symposium on Michael McClure.” Margins 18 (1975). This special issue is entirely devoted to analysis and discussion of McClure.

Pekar, Harvey, et al. The Beats: A Graphic History. Art by Ed Piskor et al. New York: Hill and Wang, 2009. Comic legend Harvey Pekar provides a history of the Beat poets in this graphic book. Contains an entry on and references to McClure.

Phillips, Rod. “Let Us Throw Out the Word Man: Michael McClure’s Mammalian Poetics.” In“Forest Beatniks” and “Urban Thoreaus”: Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, Lew Welch, and Michael McClure. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. Philips emphasizes McClure’s fascination with nature and his combining of poetry with ideas in biology and ecology.

_______. Michael McClure. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 2003. A biography of McClure that looks at his place in the Beat generation and in the poetry scene in California.

Stephenson, Gregory. “From the Substrate: Notes on the Work of Michael McClure.” In The Daybreak Boys: Essays on the Literature of the Beat Generation. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. Stephenson provides a clear and thorough survey of McClure’s writings, appreciating McClure’s effort to heal humankind, to reconcile body and spirit, and to develop harmonious coexistence with the environment.

Thurley, Geoffrey. “The Development of the New Language: Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, and Gregory Corso.” In The Beats: Essays in Criticism, edited by Lee Bartlett. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1981. Thurley examines McClure as a poet experimenting with hallucinogens, especially in “Peyote Poem,” but expresses reservations about the validity of McClure’s triumphs in perception while under the influence of narcotic substances.

Watson, Steven. “Michael McClure.” In The Birth of the Beat Generation. New York: Pantheon, 1995. Watson provides a sketch of McClure’s youth, education, and career, with recognition for McClure’s interdisciplinary role among the Beats and his dedication to science and the environment.