Jack Micheline

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Jack Micheline (born November 6, 1929 in the Bronx, New York; died February 27, 1998 in San Francisco, California) was a Bay Area painter and poet. His name is synonymous with street artists, underground writers, and "outlaw" poets. One of San Francisco's original Beat poets, he was an innovative artist who was active in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s.

Born Harold Martin Silver, he took his pen name from writer Jack London and his mother's maiden name. He moved to Greenwich Village in the 1950s, where he became a street poet, drawing on Harlem blues and jazz rhythms and the cadence of word music. He lived on the fringe of poverty, writing about hookers, drug addicts, blue collar workers, and the dispossessed. In 1957, Troubadour Press published his first book River of Red Wine; Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction, and it was reviewed by Dorothy Parker in Esquire magazine. Micheline relocated to San Francisco in the early 1960s, where he spent the rest of his life. He published over twenty books, some of them mimeographs and chapbooks.

Micheline was married twice, to Pat Cherkin in the early 1960s, and later to Marian "Mimi" Redding. He had a son, Vincent, who was born to one of his mistresses in 1963.

Though a poet of the Beat generation, Micheline characterized the Beat movement as a product of media hustle, and hated being categorized as a Beat poet. He was also a painter, working primarily with gouache in a self-taught, primitive style he picked up in Mexico City.

Micheline died of a heart attack while riding a BART subway train from San Francisco to Orinda in 1998. The back room at San Francisco's Abandoned Planet Bookstore still showcases Micheline's wall mural paintings.


  • Tell your mama you want to be free, and other poemsongs (1969); Dead Sea Fleet Editions.
  • Last House in America (1976); Second Coming Press.
  • North of Manhattan: Collected Poems, Ballads, and Songs (1976); Manroot.
  • Skinny Dynamite and Other Stories (1980); Second Coming Press.
  • River of Red Wine and Other Poems (1986); Water Row Press.
  • Imaginary Conversation with Jack Kerouac (1989); Zeitgeist Press.
  • Outlaw of the Lowest Plant (1993); Zeitgeist Press.
  • Ragged Lion (1999); Vagabond Press.
  • Sixty-Seven Poems for Downtrodden Saints (1997); FMSBW.2nd enlarged edition (1999).
  • To be a poet is to be: Poetry (2000); Implosion Press.
  • Charters, Ann (ed.). The Portable Beat Reader. Penguin Books. New York. 1992. ISBN 978-0-670-83885-1 (hc); ISBN 978-0-14-015102-2 (pbk)
  • Official Website of Jack Micheline
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