by Robert Creeley
Homage to Michael McClure is both pleasure and duty, in that his work has been a provocation and delight, lo! these (almost) twenty years. First meeting recalled now effortlessly, like they say. I'd crashed on the Dorns in San Francisco circa March 1956, and soon after was taken over to the McClure household, shared in commune manner with divers others, including Jim Harmon and Ronald Bladen. Intensive, physically articulate young man, level voice, eyes remarkably clear and crystalline, viz as with diamonds a cool light. Already going about his business with undistracted singularity. At one point asks me, generously, if I'd like to go with him to Vic Tanney's (where he worked as an instructor) to work out - which seared me, first, that I'd have to expose my distraught carcass to possibly pitiless glares and, second, that I might get hurt! Ah...
Fact is Michael's attention is merciless, in sense nothing distracts his mind from body signals pulsing that complicated grey pulp to insights truly in there. Talking with him this summer about painting and all in the fifties, he made an interesting emphasis on value of "action as an extension of the individual," not otherwise important in. itself-in short, a "meatly" process. Unlike contemporaries interested in cleaning up the dump, I think his persistent involvement with meat package context of persons is to figure the instruction and wherewithal to bring by-product mind-thought abstractions back home to initial flesh and blood. He's not ransacking biology, say, for metaphors, nor is he trying to dream a dream, etc. He's practical, and, artist that is he, he wants it all, and so "The function of art is not pleasure or education but to make an extensions - a means toward hugeness and liberation for the man, the Beast, that invents it... (Dark Brown, 1961)."
Fascinating early continuities, i.e., preoccupation with gesture begins, as he told me, in highschool, where first concerns were natural history and anthropology, moving (with significant buddy Bruce Connor) then to Dada and Surrealist art - and then to poetry. Struck by painters of the Kootz Gallery, the Intrasubjectivists, as they were then called: Tomlin, Motherwell, Stamos, Baziotes, Gottlieb -"biomorphic" - and Toby and Graves, out of Surrealism. Motherwell particularly useful - "an intellective kinship," as he called it. Then Pollock - "so integral that his work began thinking in such a subtl way So early I can't tell you when. . ." "Totally bought abstract expressionism: spiritual autobiography. . ." Still and Rothko-with whom he hoped to study at the S.F. Art Institute, but on arrival found they'd just left, so goes to S.F. State (where daughter Jane has just this fall begun as student: "Biology/ French I/ Dance/Blake").
I've been fascinated by the range of his statement, i.e., the diversity of modes in which he gains means of language. Sitting with him in empty Fillmore Ballroom watching dress rehearsal of The Beard mid-sixties, just dazzled. Ask him how he wrote this extraordinary play-answer is he copied down words of the two people speaking in his head, conjoining to make poles positive: "Meat/Spirit". Wow. Or his novels, e.g., The Adept - where he defines mind-flash subjective state of invisibility, just like that. One time when visiting in New Mexico, he got me to read some of the Ghost Tantras so that I could feel the body resonances and not just skate on the 'Meaning'. Poem on postcard he thoughtfully sent another time when my 'world' was 'demonic' beyond belief. (He and Joanna would come out for visit, we'd go down to beach where J/ would wisely go swimming - while the 'gang' packed into Gossip's Corner would be well on way to Ultimate Energy for the evening. As my own eye would begin to glitter, Mike would back off and gracefully split for the city. Just too much too minded too destructively zapped head-tripping wanted the world to narrow to a match flare.)
to be himself
and to hold a new creation
on a shining platter
the waiting car.
"Or how we got drunk & rolled down hills in San Diego or the vision of Spider Rabbit at Kent State. . ." Dear Friend, this is only the beginning...
Copyright © 1975 by Margins for the author.
This article was reprinted in Robert Creeley's Collected Essays
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