Online Edition: Fall 1999

Touching the Edge

Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha

Michael McClure

Shambhala

by Wayne Atherton

Stalactite Buddhist meditations descend from top center of each page, each poem a living organism, a biology of constant questioning. Here is evidence of a mind that is at once a bright beacon and midnight tidal pool; Pound’s natural object constantly made new; a love of all that is animal nature:

     Outside
a buck with velvet antlers
     is stalked by a small
       calico
       cat.

        (from "Devotion 1")

Michael McClure possesses an extensive knowledge of Buddhist text and practice, occasionally punctuated with Eastern Indian reference. This is not about a Western man suddenly become Eastern man. It is, rather, a compelling East-West synergy of mudra, cocaine, Bodhidharma, Amtrak, wild poppies, landmines and uzis, Manjushri, movie [projected] on waterfall. This book is a celebration of tactile poetic sensibilities, a moving fog-mist of words rich with cats, dragonsmoke, hummingbirds, fragrances. Variations on emptiness and form, all occurring/reverberating within a present/nonpresent, personal/nonpersonal universe. The "voice" is delightfully fluid, musical:

The bell's
third ring
sounds
through clouds
while
the hummingbird
sips
from the white
trumpet
that peeps from purple
wrappings.

(from "Devotion 77")

Many readers may wonder at his unusual use of capital letters. In his own words (from the Author's Note to Rebel Lions): "By putting lines of capital letters in the text of the poem there was a disruption of the allure of the poem and a reminder that it was a made thing . . . Later I experimented with using the lines of capitals to signify a small shift of intensity in the voice or mind . . . The capitals never mean that the lines are shouted or that they are chanted."

Michael McClure is living lion totem, his new book a ROAR for peace. Touching the Edge is an important reference manual for our chaotic postindustrial era, and the first revolutionary document in the new Millennium’s cry, for the protection of all beings.

BEAUTEOUS ONE, GIVE ME
one drop of wisdom
now that I have one.
The future is lace
on the hem
of compassion,
it
is there
to decorate
the streams in the mirror

that
write
out
the sky's
story.

And,

Let this small house
sing
in the wilderness
and
allow beings
to
feast
here
in the memory
of friends.
(From Devotion 72)

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Fall 1999 Table of Contents