FOR MICHAEL MCCLURE -
READING AT D.G. WILLS,
LA JOLLA - 15.IV.OO
by Jerome Rothenberg
I think that Michael McClure and I first came together when he helped me to see - in 1968 or 1969 - the implications of what I had worked out on my own in Technicians of the Sacred. I had for years before that been gathering materials and texts that involved (specifically) outcroppings of poetry in areas and cultures outside the accepted literary mainstreams. From Michael - and from others like Gary Snyder - I became aware of how many shared interests that involved and of how many transformations had already taken place, beyond the page (so to speak) and into the wide world outside. I knew Michael McClure's poetry before that and had inserted poems of his into Technicians (the Ghost Tantras that he wrote in "beast language") as parallels to kindred ancient works from aboriginal & mantric sources (& to the sound poems as well of early modernists like Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters). His work throughout was electrifying to those of us watching - with great joy in the discovery - the poetry that was arising then among our own contemporaries. The "beat surface" - which he, like others, "scratched" - was an important part of this, but there were other surfaces and other depths as well. In McClure's case there was from the beginning a mix of highly charged language (visceral, sexual, what he would later call mammalian) with an often overriding gentleness of tone and gesture. In the voice of those poems I heard the voice of someone really speaking, but speaking in - what should we say? - a bard's voice, with a touch, a memory of Blake & Shelley: poets who had moved him in the past. This sense of voice & body (but really body-mind as one) led him also into an amazing series of theatrical works, like the often acclaimed & often banned The Beard, and on its musical side, to interactions with the likes of Bob Dylan and The Doors (and to his later collaborations, still active, with keyboardist Ray Manzarek). Now, all of this might mask, as it too often does with others, the full sweep of McClure's work. He is both a latterday Romantic - in the best sense - & a sharer in an experimental modernism that has produced our greatest poetry - worldwide - over the last hundred & more years. His grasp of poetry - and art as well - goes back to high school days and first discoveries of surrealists and dadaists who came before him, but also to the work of contemporaries who shared with him a front place in the heyday of the San Francisco Renaissance. And beyond the poetry as such, he is a devoted student of a range of knowledge in both the arts and sciences - the biological and anthropological in particular - which feeds the poetry in turn & brings about a genuine & very unique lyricism of bio-particulars meat science as he calls it) & the finest celebration that I know of a universe of living forms.
See the hop-
a cricket make
the absence of
or best of all to be the poet who spoke to (and through) the raging beast and said:
GRAHHHI GRAHH! GRAHH!
GRAHHRR! RAHHR! GRAGHHRR! RAHR!
RAHR! RAHHR! GRAHHHR! GAHHR! Hrahr!
BE NOT SUGAR BUT BE LOVE
looking for sugar!
It is my pleasure to introduce the author of the many books of Michael McClure up to and including (most recently) Rain Mirror: New Poems, which we're celebrating tonight.
Copyright © 2000 by Jerome Rothenberg.
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