Michael McClure, a beat poet and playwright who read at the San Francisco Six Gallery reading in 1955, has died at the age of 87. McClure died on Monday, May 4, due to lingering effects from a stroke he suffered in spring 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He died at his home in Oakland, California.
Garrett Caples, an editor for the City Lights Publisher and a good friend of McClure, said to the media outlet, “Michael was one of the most significant American poets of the latter half of the 20th century. He had a place in popular culture in addition to literary culture that not many poets have been able to occupy.”
McClure was born on October 20, 1932, in Marysville, Kansas. He leaves behind his wife Amy Evans McClure, daughter Jane McClure, Jane’s husband William Eggimann and two grandsons, Michael Eggimann and James Eggimann.
McClure’s wife, Evans McClure, said to the outlet, “Michael’s genius, passion, wit, and compassion were equaled only by his great love for all beings.”
McClure Had a Career That Spanned Over 60 Years
McClure wore many different hats in a career that spanned over 60 years. He was a beat poet, playwright, novelist, songwriter and actor, among other things.
He was an important member of the Beat generation, and he was famous for presenting his work at the Six Gallery readings on October 7, 1955. According to Poetry Foundation, “McClure’s poetry combines spontaneity, typographical experimentation, Buddhist practice, and ‘body language’ to merge the ecstatic and the corporeal.”
Here is a video of McClure reading poetry to lions during 1966’s USA Poetry series by Richard O. Moore.
McClure wrote various collections of poetry, including 1956’s The Passage, 1964’s Ghost Tantras, 1991’s Rebel Lions and 2011’s Of Indigo and Saffron. He wrote the famous play, The Beard, and McClure also dabbled in acting.
McClure’s Fans Share Their Thoughts After the News Broke About His Death
After the news of McClure’s death was reported on Tuesday night, fans took to social media to share their thoughts about the poet. One fan tweeted:
He said, “RIP Michael McClure, a core Blakean Beat alongside Ginsberg. His first conversation with Ginsberg was about a teenage dream that he *was* William Blake. Longstanding friend and collaborator with The Doors, he also identified the Blakean spirit in Bob Dylan.”
One user wrote:
He said, “Losing Michael McClure has hit me head on. Damn it.”
Another fan posted:
He wrote, “I just heard about the passing of Michael McClure. I am very sorry. From what I can tell, he seemed to enchant just about everyone. Even grumpy old Ken Rexroth. Rexroth played some French chansons to a group of students, and when it was over he said, ‘Mick McClure wrote a beautiful poem about how my face looks when listening to that song.'”
A fellow poet tweeted:
He said, “This one hurts me deeply. One of the greats. One of the early influences on my literary, creative life. Thank you, Michael McClure, for spending time with us.”
One fan posted:
He said, “In the Last Waltz it was Michael McClure who recited from The Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. At the news of his passing tonight I think of Rare Angel, one of his best collections. RIP.”