Beat Poet Michael McClure Reads at Berkeley
As part of this year’s Holloway Series in Poetry, Michael McClure will be reading on October 14th. This is the second year in a row that McClure has “performed” at UC Berkeley. Last year, he was a guest lecturer in Lyn Hejinian’s undergraduate survey course, ENG 45C: Literature in English from the late Ninteenth Century to the Present.
As always, McClure put on a good show. He regaled the undergrads with stories of psychedelic experimentation, mind-expansion and what it was like to live in the Bay Area in the 60s. At first, many of the students were as put off by his wild stories as they had been by his difficult poetry. They had good reason to be perplexed by the selections from Ghost Tantras that Lyn had assigned them. For example, take the first poem of the collection:
GRAHHH! GRAHH! GRAHH!
Grah gooooor! Ghahh! Graaarr! Greeeeer! Grayowhr!
GRAHHRR! RAHHR! GRAGHHRR! RAHR!
RAHRIRAHHR! GRAHHHR! GAHHR! HRAHR!
BE NOT SUGAR BUT BE LOVE
looking for sugar!
But, once McClure explained his thinking behind the series of poems, the way he wanted to think of a new language and to think of inarticulate “baby language” as having as much expressive power as more conventional forms of speaking, some of the students started to get pretty excited. One undergrad said that he had never been so fascinated or entertained and he was surprised at how much meaning he had taken away from McClure’s performance of the poems. When asked to articulate that meaning, he wasn’t sure how to proceed, but said that he just liked it. “You know, it’s like what the poet said it was: ‘cosmic breathing.’ It makes me think.”
Certainly there are many here in Wheeler Hall who love to think and who are looking forward to the next installment of McClure’s cosmic breath. Look out for a report on the reading!