Since his literary debut at the Six Gallery reading, Michael McClure has been one of the most enduring and influential writers of the Beat movement. As one of five poets who began his career on that night in 1955, he shares a long and rich history with Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, and many other writers of San Francisco’s Beat period. As one of the youngest members of the Beat circle, McClure played an important role as a bridge between writers and artists of the Beat movement and the region’s youth counterculture of the 1960s and has been a close friend and collaborator with figures such as Jim Morrison, Richard Brautigan, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin.
McClure was born October 20, 1932, in Marysville, Kansas. He began his university education in 1951 at the University of Wichita and later transferred to the University of Arizona before moving to San Francisco where he enrolled in a writing workshop with poet Robert Duncan at San Francisco State University. Through his friendship with Duncan and later with poet Kenneth Rexroth, he began to find his place in the city’s literary community in the early 1950s.
In fall 1955 McClure took part in the now famous Six Gallery reading — the foundation of what would soon be called the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Here, in his first public reading, McClure, along with Lamantia, Snyder, Whalen, and Ginsberg helped to launch the Beat movement, and his presence at the event helped to instill in the fledgling movement his lifelong fascination with the natural world.
In the months following the Six Gallery reading, McClure began in earnest to publish his work. In 1956 his first small collection of poems PASSAGE, was published by Jonathan Williams (Jargon). Other collections soon followed, including McClures first major collection, HYMNS TO ST. GERYON AND OTHER POEMS (Auerhahn Press, 1958), THE NEW BOOK / A BOOK OF TORTURE (Grove Press, 1961), his powerfully erotic long poem DARK BROWN (Auerhahn Press, 1961), the wildly experimental “beast language” poems contained in GHOST TANTRAS (1964), and his vitriolic condemnation of the Vietnam War, POISONED WHEAT (Oyez, 1965). During these early years, McClure also took an active role in seeing that the words and ideas of other writers of the Beat movement and the Black Mountain School made it into print; he coedited two influential literary journals of the period: ARK II / MOBY I and JOURNAL FOR THE PROTECTION OF ALL BEINGS.
— Encyclopedia of Beat Literature
Clements, Marshall. A CATALOG OF WORKS BY MICHAEL MCCLURE, 1956-1965
New York: The Phoenix Book Shop, 1965
Cook, Ralph T. CITY LIGHTS BOOKS: A DESCRIPTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY
Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1992
Cooney, Seamus. THE BLACK SPARROW PRESS, A CHECKLIST
Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1971
Johnston, Alastair. A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE AUERHAHN PRESS & ITS SUCCESSOR DAVE HASELWOOD BOOKS
Berkeley: Poltroon Press, 1976
Lepper, Gary M. A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION TO SEVENTY-FIVE MODERN AMERICAN AUTHORS
Berkeley: Serendipity Books, 1976