Everson was born in Sacramento, California. His Christian Scientist parents, both of whom were printers, raised him on a farm outside the small fruit-growing town of Selma, which is south of Fresno in California's San Joaquin Valley. He played football at Selma High School and attended Fresno State College (later California State University, Fresno).
As a poet, thinker and man
Everson was an influential member of the San Francisco Renaissance in poetry and worked closely with Kenneth Rexroth during this period of his life. Throughout his life, Everson was a devotee of the work and lifestyle of poet Robinson Jeffers. Much of his work as a critic was done on Jeffers's poetry.
Everson registered as an anarchist and a pacifist with his draft board, in compliance with the 1940 draft bill. In 1943, he was sent to a Civilian Public Service (CPS) work camp for conscientious objectors in Oregon. In Camp Angel at Waldport, Oregon, with other poets, artists and actors such as Kemper Nomland, William Eshelman, Kermit Sheets, Glen Coffield, George Woodcock and Kenneth Patchen, he founded a fine-arts program in which the CPS men staged plays and poetry-readings and learned the craft of fine printing. During his time as a conscientious objector, Everson completed The Residual Years, a volume of poems that launched him to national fame.
Everson joined the Catholic Church in 1951 and soon became involved with the Catholic Worker Movement in Oakland, California. He took the name "Brother Antoninus" when he joined the Dominican Order in 1951 in Oakland. A colorful literary and counterculture figure, he was subsequently nicknamed the "Beat Friar." He left the Dominicans in 1969 to embrace a growing sexual awakening, and married a woman many years his junior. The 1974 poem Man-Fate explores this transformation. Everson was stricken by Parkinson's Disease in 1972, and its effects on him became a powerful element in his public readings.
Everson spent most of his years living near the central California coast a few miles north of Santa Cruz in a cabin he dubbed "Kingfisher Flat". He was poet-in-residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz during the 1970s and 1980s. There he founded the Lime Kiln Press, a small press through which he printed highly sought-after fine-art editions of his own poetry, as well as of the works of other poets, including Robinson Jeffers and Walt Whitman. His papers are archived at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA and The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.
Black Sparrow Press recently released a three-volume series of the collected poems of Everson, the last volume of which was published in 2000.
- There Are the Ravens (1935). San Leandro, CA: Greater Western Publishing.
- San Joaquin (1939). Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press.
- War Elegies (1944). Waldport, Oregon: Untide Press.
- The Residual Years (1948). New York: New Directions.
- A Privacy of Speech (1949). Berkeley: The Equinox Press.
- The Crooked Lines of God (1959). Detroit: University of Detroit Press.
- The Hazards of Holiness (1962). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
- The Poet is Dead: a Memorial for Robinson Jeffers (1964). San Francisco: Auerhahn Press.
- The Blowing of the Seed (1966). New Haven: Henry W. Wenning.
- Single Source: The Early Poems of William Everson, 1934-1940 (1966). Berkeley: Oyez.
- In the Fictive Wish (1967). Berkeley: Oyez.
- The Rose of Solitude (1967). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
- The Springing of the Blade (1968) Reno, Nevada: The Black Rock Press.
- A Canticle to the Water Birds (1968). Berkeley: Eizo.
- The City Does Not Die (1969). Berkeley: Oyez.
- The Last Crusade (1969). Berkeley: Oyez.
- Who Is She That Looketh Forth as the Morning (1972). Santa Barbara: Capricorn Press.
- Tendril in the Mesh (1973). Aromas, California: Cayucos Books.
- Black Hills (1973). San Francisco: Didymus Press.
- Man-Fate: The Swan Song of Brother Antoninus (1974). New York: New Directions (W.W. Norton)
- River-Root: A Syzygy for the Bicentennial of These States (1976). Berkeley: Oyez.
- The Veritable Years, 1949-1966 (1978). Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press.
- The Masks Of Drought (1980). Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press.
- Birth of a Poet (1982). Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press
Autobiography and interviews
- Prodigious Thrust (1996). Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press.
- Naked Heart: Talking on Poetry, Mysticism, and the Erotic (1992). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, College of Arts and Sciences.
- On Printing (1992). San Francisco: Book Club of California.
- Take Hold Upon the Future: Letters on Writers and Writing, 1938-1946 (1994). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
- Robinson Jeffers: Fragments of an Older Fury (1968) Berkeley: Oyez.
- Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region (1974). Berkeley: Oyez.
- Dionysus and the Beat: Four Letters on the Archetype (1977). Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press.
- The Excesses of God: Robinson Jeffers as a Religious Figure (1988). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
- Peter Rutledge Koch, 'Three Philosophical Printers William Everson, Jack Stauffacher, and Adrian Wilson', in Parenthesis; 19 (2010 Autumn), p. 12-17
- Gelpi, Albert. Dark God of Eros: A William Everson Reader. Berkeley, CA: Heyday. 2003.
- Bartlett, Lee, and Campo, Allan. "William Everson: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1934-1976". Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. 1977.
- Siuslaw National Forest; History Department; Portland State University. "Camp 56: An Oral History Project: World War II Conscientious Objectors and the Waldport, Oregon Civilian Public Service Camp". Center for Columbia River History. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- "Register of the William Everson Papers, 1937-1971"
- "Guide to the William Everson Papers"
- Works by or about William Everson in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- William Everson at the University of Illinois' Modern American Poetry website
- The Death of a Poet
- William Everson at the Beat Page