A Tribute to Michael McClure

Michael McClure Bio

Articles about McClure
Books by McClure
McClure in Victoria

Pacific Rim Review
Ekstasis Editions
Persian Pony

Reorganizing Your Consciousness:
McClure’s Visionary Journey

Review by Jesse Boyes

Persian Pony
Michael McClure
Ekstasis Editions, 2017

Reading Michael McClure’s poetry is a visionary journey. It’s also an ecstatic dance. In the preface to Persian Pony he quotes the romantic philosopher Friedrich Schlegal: “All art should become science and all science art; poetry and philosophy should be made one”. McClure writes that these poems are conceived in “PROJECTIVE VERSE”. His explanation of this form sounds to me like the effortless intelligence that beautifully expresses inspired thoughts arising from an embodied cognition. He says that “Poetry is a muscular principle.” Is this true? It must be; his poems are alive. They are unmistakably charged with a lifetime of fleshy wisdom, not overly cerebral, and when read aloud feel like an in-person interaction with the poet himself.

Some folks have said that Michael McClure was a mentor to the phenomenal poet/lyricist/vocalist of The Doors, Jim Morrison. They were friends, and the corporeal style they both embody does suggest influence. Persian Pony is a linguistic carnival of ecological mythology, recollecting entheogenic mysteries and revelations. Specific species are named in relation to sporadic philosophical musings in the same poem in which we read of “…a / Mobius strip / of / stunned clowns”. It’s silly yet far from frivolous; rather, existential. Seriously playful.

In October of 2017, McClure read from his new book at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Eardrums resounding, I was enchanted by the resonant, still muscular voice carried by a man who was present and involved way back in the ‘Beat Generation.’ If anyone in the room was blinking, it would have be audible between words while he read his famous Peyote Poem. We were frozen solid. The molecular biologist Francis Crick, a discoverer of the double helix form of DNA, quoted this poem in one of his scientific works. The importance of poetry was demonstrated to me directly and resolutely at this reading. This is to say that McClure seems to know that by speaking from the heart he is effectively reorganizing our consciousness, and the world.

The final poem of the fifty-eight contained in Persian Pony is called "Boulder Hill" and is a new favourite. An excerpt from midway through it reads: “…as these moths flatter / the nerves that reach from our eyes / to our brains and our shoulders and fingers / AND / NOW / out of nowhere / we’ve stepped into / YOUR INTERIOR / as it overlaps / and pours like a stream / in- / to / mine…” (113). Not only can his poetry become part of you, but it fastens you to it so that you are not apart from it. I don’t see how one could hear these poems and return to the world the same person. This is a book for people who did not know they appreciated poetry. It’s a book for fellow poets. It’s a book for biologists, psychologists, and philosophers; a book that I believe will speak to everyone who has any kind of love of life.

Ethnobotanist Jesse Boyes writes from B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

This review first appeared in Pacific Rim Review of Books #23