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MICHAEL MCCLURE has long been noted for the popularity of his dynamic poetry performances. At the age of 22 he gave his first poetry reading at the legendary Six Gallery event in San Francisco, where Allen Ginsberg first read Howl. Today McClure is more active than ever, writing and performing his poetry at festivals, and colleges and clubs across the country.
“The role model for Jim Morrison,” as the Los Angeles Times characterized Michael McClure, has found sources in music from Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis to the composer Terry Riley with whom his poetry readings frequently share a bill.
Recently McClure joined with composer Terry Riley to create a CD titled I Like Your Eyes Liberty. The CD explores spontaneous music and voice (working together) expressing the outrageous and mystical in both artists.
McClure has worked extensively with his old friend Ray Manzarek, the Doors’ keyboardist, at festivals and colleges and clubs. They appeared with saxophonist David Sanborn on NBC-TV performing a jazz rendition of McClure’s “Love Lion Blues.” Mystic Fire released a 70 minute video of the duo and a compact disk “Love Lion” followed. McClure and Manzarek’s second CD “There’s a Word” carries their explorations even further.
Another video of Michael and Ray’s conversations and performances “Third Mind” was premiered on television by the Sun Dance Channel.
McClure reads with an actor’s command and a singer’s sense of timing, his impact “transports audiences to a very different and intriguing place.” He has given hundreds of reading in venues as varied as the Fillmore Ballroom, Yale University, The National Biodiversity Conference at the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress. His audiences have ranged from an intimate dozen at a tiny Maui bookstore, to tens of thousands at San Francisco’s Human Be-in in San Francisco, and to multitudes at Airlift Africa. One of the poet’s favorite readings was to, and with, four lions at the San Francisco Zoo – a film of this reading is often shown on TV. McClure’s world-wide performances include Rome; Paris; Tokyo; Lawrence, Kansas; London; and in a bull ring in Mexico City.
The Poetry Flash described a reading by the poet “McClure – dressed in black –stood and uttered his words with a sort of sultry precision. His gestures punctuated his words (a poetry of the body), enthralling, enlisting a dynamic tension between audience and performer that didn’t let up till the words stopped.” A reviewer of a recent London reading wrote, “McClure’s West Coast delivery was deliberate, cool, spacious…”
The Journal-World in Lawrence Kansas offered these observations of McClure at the William Burroughs celebration, “McClure looked cool. Yet he grew warm, wending lyrical words around the air and across the hall, The coolness fell away with his simple elegance in word and presentation… McClure was controlled and read with steady jazz rhythms, a perfect, minimal chart of spoken words.”
He has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Felowship, an Obie Award for Best Play, an NEA grant, the Alfred Jarry Award, and a Rockefeller grant for playwriting. McClure has written twenty plays and musicals which are performed in the U.S. and abroad. His play The Beard provoked numerous censorship battles, in Los Angeles, the cast was arrested after each performance for fourteen nights in a row. Later The Beard received two Obies in N.Y.C. and was warmly embraced in both London and Paris. The play has played a role in U.S. censorship and free speech battles since 1966 when it won the first lawsuit that tried to ban its performance.
The poet is featured in several films among them Scorcese’s Last Waltz, in which his reading of a poem by Chaucer “lilted, rolled, and seduced the audience into the lyric tonality of Middle English” (Atlanta Poetry Review). McClure played a Hells Angel in Norman Mailer’s film Beyond the Law.. He does a cameo in Peter Fonda’s Hired Hand.
McClure has made two television documentaries – The Maze and September Blackberries. His fourteen books of poetry include Jaguar Skies, Dark Brown, Huge Dreams, Rebel Lions, Rain Mirror and Plum Stones. He has published eight books of plays and four collections of essays, including essays on Bob Dylan and on environmental issues. His novels are The Mad Cub and The Adept.
McClure’s songs include “Mercedes Benz,” popularized by Janis Joplin and new songs which are being performed by The Twenty-first Century Doors.
His journalism has been featured in The Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and the L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle.
Michael McClure’s travels include Africa, Mexico, South America, India, Thailand and Japan. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area hills with his wife the sculptor Amy Evans McClure.