One of my poetry heroes died May 4. I met and interviewed Michael McClure in 1995 when he was visiting Seattle to promote the book Three Poems with the new long poem Dolphin Skull as the first of the three. A remarkable introduction by Grateful Dead lyricist (and Rilke translator) Robert Hunter and a seminal author’s preface along with (obviously) the poetry make this book hands down the most important book I have ever read. As I go back to find a particular quote from it, I find it in the “Afterword To Portrait Of The Moment” and Michael writes of Dolphin Skull:
Perhaps it will please someone else and they may appropriate it for their own consciousness.
I took him at his word, memorized huge swaths of the poem and even recorded it for him so he could hear my reading of it for which he actually paid me $100 Yankee dollars! (No lie.) Hearing him read a couple of segments on my interview show was transformative and meeting him was one of the most important things that has ever happened to me.I embarked on a study of Projective Verse and other spontaneous methods of composition and he once told me (ten or so years ago) that I probably know more about Projective Verse than anyone alive. He was the one who suggested I read the Olson essay and I taped it at the radio station where I worked, reading to casette as the Jazz music was playing on the radio and listening to the recording over and over and over.
Michael gave me the opportunity to write introductions to two of his books and I have blogged about different aspects of his life and work. There is so much to say, but I will save it up for a Zoom edition of our monthly literary salon The Undercommons on Monday, May 25, 2020, Memorial Day at 11am.
The Undercommons started a few months ago and involves conversation about literature. Matt Trease, Saundra Fleming and I were three of the co-founders and we’ve not met in person for a few months due to the shelter-in-place guidelines to combat the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
We did have an excellent discussion on the Objectivists two weeks ago, facilitated by Tom Sharp and so I volunteered to do something similar on the poetry of Michael McClure, who lived to age 87.
Zoom we will, Monday, Memorial Day, May 25 at 11am PDT. Here is Matt Trease’s invite:
Hi, everyone.Since we haven’t been able to hold our regular Undercommons discussions the last few months, it might be fun to do a zoom discussion. Paul Nelson has volunteered to give a brief retrospective on the work of Michael McClure, who sadly left us last week. Paul will present, but we’ll leave space for some discussion and for anyone to read their favorite McClure poems.We’ll hold this from 11am-1pm PDT on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. Feel free to invite anyone you think might enjoy.Here’s the info:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 816 3336 4186
I will not make it a comprehensive overview of Michael’s work, but will highlight some of the areas of chief importance to me. I hope to have enough time to read the entire first section of Dolphin Skull. I would be honored if you could join me in honoring the memory of The Rebel Lion.