Jack Micheline (November 6, 1929 – February 27, 1998), born Harold Martin Silver, was an American painter and poet. Born in the East Bronx, New York, he published his first book, River of Red Wine, in 1957 with an introduction by Jack Kerouac. 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. As a painter, he worked primarily with gouache in a self-taught, primitive style he picked up in Mexico City. He was active in the San Francisco Bay Area scene from the late 1960’s until his death in 1998.
Jack Micheline was born Harvey Martin Silver on November 6, 1929 in the East Bronx (New York City) of Russian-Romanian ancestry. He changed his name legally in 1963, choosing “Jack” after Jack London and “Micheline” as some purported adaptation of a family name.
His first travels started at age seventeen. A voyage to Israel, in 1949, brought him to the Negev where he worked on a Kibbutz.
He began creating and publishing work in 1954 and soon moved to Greenwich Village. In 1957, at the Half Note Café in the West Village, Micheline won a poetry reading contest, the “Revolt in Literature Award,” judged by Charles Mingus, Jean Shepard and Nat Henthoff. The prize consisted of ten dollars worth of jazz albums from Mingus’ “Debut” record label. In 1958 his collection River of Red Wine, which boasted an introduction by Jack Kerouac and garnered a favorable review from critic Dorothy Parker in Esquire magazine, established Micheline as a writer.
He was most influenced as a painter by the renowned abstract expressionist, Franz Kline. Through Kline’s friendship and generosity, Micheline received moral and financial support to begin painting in earnest. In 1961, Kline gave Micheline $3,200 to travel to Mexico to further explore his artistic aspirations. While there, Micheline became an active painter adopting his trademark colorful, childlike primitive-style.
In the early 1960s Micheline traveled to Europe, across the United States, Mexico and Israel. He lived in rooming houses, stayed with friends and got in touch with other underground artists. In 1962 he married Patricia Cherkin of Monessen, Pennsylvania. With this marriage he had his only child, Vince Silver. The marriage lasted 1 year.
In 1964 he married Marian Elizabeth Redding, a politician’s daughter, and went to Europe with her. Just a year later the marriage broke up.
In 1968 John Bryan, the publisher of Open City (an underground Los Angeles newspaper) was arrested and charged with obscentiy for printing Micheline’s short story, “Skinny Dynamite.” Many prominent writers, such as Allen Ginsberg and Hubert Selby Jr., wrote letters of support to defend the literary merits of this controversial writing. The case was eventually dismissed thanks to legal assistance from civil rights attorney Stanley Fleischman.
By the late 1960s Micheline had relocated to the West Coast, settling in San Francisco permanently in the early ‘70s, where he was a local figure in the North Beach art scene. He became acquainted with west coast artists including Charles Bukowski, Ken Kesey, Bob Kaufman and ruth weiss with whom he had very close friendships.
In 1969 he began self-publishing books in limited editions of 10 or less or up to as many as 100. These were usually hand-bound in folders held together by staples and mimeographed at the local copy store.
Throughout his adult life, he joined liberal causes and criticized the oppressive elements of government that enforced censorship or tacitly accepted racism. He identified with the disenfranchised and downtrodden encountered in his travels and learned to love the sounds of jazz and the liberation of painting and poetry. His work possesses a natural rhythm and rhyme which connects with an audience whom has little interest in, and contact with, the arts.
Jack Micheline died on a San Francisco BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train on February 27, 1998 of a heart attack. More than two dozen books, or booklets, were printed in his lifetime, numerous broadsides as well as several dozen antholgies in which his poetry was featured.
Tags: Beat Poetry, , Jack Micheline, On Valencia Street, Beat Poet, Painter, Ephemera, Skinny Dynamite