Michael McClure, who at 22 helped usher in the Beat movement as part of a famed poetry reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, then went on to a long and varied career as a poet, playwright, novelist and lyricist, died on Monday at his home in Oakland, Calif. He was 87.
His wife, Amy Evans McClure, said the cause was complications of a stroke he had last year.
Michael Thomas McClure was born on Oct. 20, 1932, in Marysville, Kan., northwest of Topeka, to Thomas and Marion (Johnston) McClure. He spent much of his childhood in Seattle but returned to Kansas with his mother and stepfather, finishing high school in Wichita. He started college there as well before switching to the University of Arizona, but an interest in art took him to San Francisco in 1954.
Mr. McClure was one of the poetry readers at the Six Gallery, a former auto repair shop that had been turned into an art gallery, on Oct. 7, 1955, a date that Beatdom magazine, marking the 60th anniversary of the event, called “arguably one of the most important dates in American literature.”
His play “The Beard,” first performed in 1965 in San Francisco, caused censorship uproars there and in other cities where it was staged over the next decade, for its obscenity-filled dialogue and a scene of simulated cunnilingus. Actors were sometimes arrested, along with the occasional director or producer.
Mr. McClure’s many poetry collections include “Dark Brown” (1961), “Star” (1970) and “Rain Mirror” (1999).
His novels include “The Mad Cub” (1970), a sexual coming-of-age story. He taught poetry for many years at the California College of the Arts.
Mr. McClure gave countless poetry readings over the decades, sometimes with a musical accompanist; Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of the Doors, was a frequent performing partner.
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