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Ghost Tantras (City Lights/Grey Fox) Paperback – November 12, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"These poems are intense, serious, hilarious, beautiful. The 'beast language' is intended to appeal to the animal inside every human . . . For McClure, language is something entirely different than simple words and syntax. He pushes language to many limits, most of them definitive. Words here become sounds, writing becomes speech; what is so foundationally cultural-language is imagined and acted upon as natural. If nothing else, this makes for some bravely original and compelling poetry, and McClure is widely recognized today as a revolutionary poet because of his atypical attitudes toward language."--Housten Donham, HTMLGiant.

"It's time for books with brains. . . . The famously lyrical (and out-of-print) Ghost Tantras by Beat poet Michael McClure is coming back to life."--Allison McCarthy, 7x7 Magazine

"Michael McClure is a Bay Area legend, a poet who participated in the Six Gallery reading that featured the public debut of Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl.' In 1964, he self-published 'Ghost Tantras,' written in a mix of muscular free verse, sensual lyricism and an elemental 'beast language' that includes roars, growls and other preverbal sounds. Now, 50 years after it first appeared, City Lights has reissued the book; 'Ghost Tantras' remains an essential volume for Beat Generation aficionados."--Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News

"Michael McClure’s 'Ghost Tantras,' is also wonderfully welcome. City Lights Books has reprinted this slim volume by a Beat stalwart who never gets stale, has avoided with careful, exuberant wisdom the cannibalization of his comrades’ memories, and is fearless . . . "--Barbara Berman, The Rumpus

About the Author

Michael McClure is an American poet, playwright, songwriter, and novelist. After moving from Kansas to San Francisco as a young man, he was one of the five poets who participated in the legendary 1955 Six Gallery reading that featured the public debut of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem Howl. McClure remains a key figure of the Beat Generation and is immortalized as Pat McLear in Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur. A central figure in the Beat Movement and the San Francisco Renaissance, his poetry is heavily infused with an awareness of nature, especially in the animal consciousness that often lies dormant in mankind. He has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Obie Award for Best Play, an NEA grant, the Alfred Jarry Award and a Rockefeller grant for playwriting. McClure is still active as a poet, essayist and playwright and lives with his second wife, Amy, in the San Francisco Bay Area. McClure continues to reach new audiences through his poetry, plays, and performance.

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Product Details

  • Series: City Lights/Grey Fox
  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872866270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872866270
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,993,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael McClure


At age 22, Michael McClure gave his first poetry reading at the legendary Six Gallery event in San Francisco, where Allen Ginsberg first read Howl.

"The role model for Jim Morrison," the L.A.Times characterized McClure, and has found sources in music from Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis to the composer Terry Riley.

McClure worked extensively with his friend Ray Manzarek, the Doors' keyboardist, at festivals, colleges and clubs. Third Mind, a film of Michael and Ray's conversations and performances, was premiered by the Sun Dance Channel.

He has given readings in venues as varied as the Fillmore Ballroom, Yale, Stanford and The National Biodiversity Conference. His audiences have ranged from a dozen at a Maui bookstore, to tens of thousands at San Francisco's Human Be-in in San Francisco, and to multitudes at Airlift Africa.

One of McCure's readings was to, and with, lions at the San Francisco Zoo - a film of it can be seen on his website. McClure's performances include Rome; Paris; Tokyo; London, a bull ring in Mexico City, The Whitney Museum, and a steam room in Nairobi for a group of African businessmen.

A London reviewer wrote, "McClure's West Coast delivery was deliberate, cool, spacious..." The Journal-World in Lawrence Kansas wrote of McClure at the William Burroughs celebration, "McClure looked cool. Yet he grew warm, wending lyrical words around the air and across the hall, the coolness fell away with his simple elegance in word and presentation..."

McClure's songs include "Mercedes Benz," popularized by Janis Joplin.

His awards, include a Guggenheim Felowship, the Obie Award for Best Play, the Alfred Jarry Award, and a Rockefeller grant for playwriting. McClure's plays and musicals are performed in the U.S. and abroad. His play The Beard provoked numerous censorship battles in Los Angeles; the cast was arrested after each performance for fourteen nights in a row. Later The Beard received Obies in N.Y.C. and was embraced in London and Paris. The drama has played a role in U.S. censorship and free speech battles since it won the first lawsuit.

The poet is featured in Scorcese's Last Waltz, in which he recites a poem by Chaucer in Middle English"

McClure created two television documentaries - The Maze and September Blackberries. His books of poetry include Jaguar Skies, Dark Brown, Huge Dreams, Rebel Lions, Mysteriosos, and Of Indigo and Saffron. He has published four collections of essays, which include notes on Bob Dylan and environmental issues. His novels are The Mad Cub and The Adept.

The Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, the L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle have published his journalism.

He lives in Oakland 's Bay Area hills with his wife the sculptor Amy Evans McClure.


"McClure's poetry is a blob of protoplasmic energy." - Allen Ginsberg

"Michael McClure shares a place with the great William Blake, with the visionary Shelley, with the passionate D.H. Lawrence..." - Robert Creeley

"What appeals to me most about Michael's poems is the fury and imagery of them..."
discoverer of the DNA double helix - Francis Crick,

"This poetry is soulful freedom at play in the Desire-realm..." - Gary Snyder

"Without McClure's roar there would have been no Sixties." - Dennis Hopper

"One of our best and wisest bard/scholars. McClure's thinking is brave, obdurate, passionate
complex." - Anne Waldman

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Matthew Mclaughlin on December 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
Seemingly nonsensical on the surface and it is easy to dismiss this as a bit of hippie beat rubbish but hold your horses right there buster.
After reading all 99 tantras, I now add Ghost Tantras to the triumvirate of great 'ear poetry' works along with Finnegans Wake and Kerouac's Old Angel Midnight (as well as Kerouac's poem to the ocean in Big Sur.)

What do all of these works have in common?
They are all types of what Allen Ginsberg would call 'ear poetry' and that is why most people don't get them or dismiss them with a shrug. Most poetry, including my own, is lyrical.
It takes a lot of guts to write this kind of non-lyrical auditory poetry stuff. But in the works of Kerouac, McClure (to some extent, although he is also a very lyrical poet) and Philip Whalen, that's the whole shot!

In Finnegans Wake, Joyce tried to capture that intangible evasive 'dream language' which usually evaporates upon wakening. Kerouac in Old Angel Midnight tried to capture the sounds streaming through his 'twandow' in the Mill Valley cabin of Snyder's where he was staying in 1956 (twandow = twilight + window).
McClure in Ghost Tantras is trying to capture an internal music that moves not only in our muscles, veins and sinews but echoes through us genetically as animals or more specifically mammals, who are trying to forget or leave behind the 'animal' classification and push himself above it.

Now McClure mixes normal modern-day English with his beast language throughout Ghost Tantras, sometimes to great effect, sometimes he goes too far, and the impression I got from this, I might be wrong, is that he captured the dawn of consciousness of homo sapiens and the birth of human language in a condensed fast-forwarded version.
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Ghost Tantras (City Lights/Grey Fox)
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