Fonds MsA-5 - Michael McClure fonds

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Michael McClure fonds

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  • Textual records
  • Photographic materials
  • Sound recordings
  • Moving images

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  • 1955-1998 (Creation)
    McClure, Michael

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Physical description

ca. 40 m of textual records and other material

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Biographical history

The American writer Michael McClure was born in Marysville, Kansas on October 2, 1932. He was educated at the University of Wichita, the University of Arizona, and San Francisco State College, where he studied with poet Robert Duncan.
In 1955 he participated in the landmark 'Six Gallery' poetry reading in San Francisco (his first public reading) at which poet Allen Ginsberg read for the first time from his soon-to-be-famous poem 'Howl' with sensational effect.
From this beginning McClure became a key, high-profile member of the 'Beat Generation' writers along with Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, and William Burroughs. He also figured prominently in the ‘San Francisco Renaissance' poetic movement and the broader California counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s; he read at the 1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park; rode with and co-wrote the memoirs of a Hell's Angel; and appeared on stage at The Band's 'Last Waltz’ farewell' performance in 1976.
Though primarily a poet and playwright, McClure also produced fiction, essays, journalism and song lyrics. A dynamic performer of his spoken-word work, he collaborated extensively with musicians, including the minimalist composer Terry Riley and The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. He met the latter through the band's vocalist Jim Morrison, a close friend of McClure who he also mentored as a poet. The two collaborated on an unproduced screenplay based on McClure's novel, The Adept (1971) intended as an acting vehicle for Morrison.
McClure published more than thirty books of poems and plays. Notable works include the controversial play The Beard, which in 1966 was raided by San Francisco police and prosecuted for obscenity; a book of sound poetry, Ghost Tantras, written in an invented ‘beast language’; and Scratching the Beat Surface (1994), a wide-ranging collection of essays exploring the ’new vision’ and ‘Beat' consciousness in relation to ‘biophysical thinking'.
Though McClure never resided in Vancouver he visited often starting in 1966 when he appeared at the local 'Trips Festival' with the Grateful Dead and other San Francisco psychedelic bands. He read and performed in the area many times over the next fifty years and was close to various local poets. He published two books in B.C., including his last, Persian Pony, in 2017. A local production of The Beard was charged with obscenity by Vancouver police in 1969, similar to the 1966 San Francisco production.
Awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Alfred Jarry Award, Rockefeller and National Endowment for the Arts grants, and an Obie Award for Best Play.
McClure lived most of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area. He taught for more than forty years at the California College of the Arts in Oakland and lived with his second wife, the sculptor Amy Evans McClure, until his death in 2020.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of manuscripts and typescripts, clippings and reviews, notebooks, correspondence with friends and associates, galley and proofs, broadsides and cards by McClure, anthologies and magazines containing items by and about McClure, conference material, tape recordings, photographs, film and ephemera. Film is the only remaining print of Andy Warhol's unauthorized version of "The Beard" (1966). Correspondents include Richard Brautigan, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bruce Conner, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen.

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Immediate source of acquisition

The documents were in the custody of Michael McClure until their purchase by SFU Library's Special Collections & Rare Books Division in 1973 via Serendipity Books (Berkeley). The initial accession was followed by numerous (13) accruals throughout the 1970s and 1980s from Serendipity Books and Sand Dollar Booksellers.


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Restrictions on access

Prospective researchers must first query the McClure Estate, represented by Amy McClure, for permission to access the fonds. Please contact for assistance.

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Printed inventories available.

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Created May 16, 2014, LZ

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  • English

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