William Everson

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William "Bill" Everson (September 10, 1912 – June 3, 1994), also known as Brother Antoninus, was an American poet of the San Francisco Renaissance and a literary critic, teacher and small press printer.


Everson was born in Sacramento, California. His parents, both of whom were printers, raised him on a farm outside the small fruit-growing town of Selma, California He played football at Selma High School and attended Fresno State College (later California State University, Fresno).

Poet and teacher[edit]

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 great admirer of the work and life 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.[1] 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 married poet Mary Fabilli on June 12, 1948,[2] and influenced by her religious devotion, converted to Catholicism.[3] 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. As an initiate in the Order, he printed the unfinished Novum Psalterium PII XII, an acknowledged masterpiece in American fine press printing. A colorful literary and counterculture figure, he was nicknamed the Beat Friar. The central motif throughout all of Antoninus' Catholic poetry is Incarnation, the central symbol of the Christian mystery. In 1956, he met an English Dominican, Father Victor White, at St. Albert's Dominican priory. White, of the English Dominican province and a longtime friend of Carl Jung, with whom he maintained a voluminous correspondence, was resident lecturer and theologian there. It was through this relationship to Victor White that Antoninus learned to look at his dreams from an in-depth religious angle for meaning. He devoured the Collected Works of Jung and began his psychological analysis of the unconscious as well as the analysis of many individuals who came to him for counseling. Antoninus wrote the first draft of his long erotic poem River-Root / A Syzygy, which he considered to be his most prophetic work. As Everson said in an interview for Creation magazine, with its founder and editor, the theologian and Episcopal priest Matthew Fox, he saw it as a complete re-writing of the Song of Songs, bringing frank Eros back into the Psalms and undoing Christianity's longstanding separation of the sexual from the spiritual for purposes of modernity. Jung's writings influenced the contributions Everson made to post-religious poetical thought in America. After leaving St Albert's, where he had practiced as a lay monk, poet and spiritual counselor for 18 years, Antoninus left his religious habit after a reading at the University of California at Davis campus on December 7, 1969. He left the Dominicans in 1969 and married a woman many years his junior, Susanna Rickson. At this time, he became a step-father to his son, Jude Everson. When Antoninus wrote The Rose of Solitude, he saw it published in many magazines. However, when he wrote The Veritable Years under William Everson, having left Antoninus behind, he couldn't even get his work reviewed. He then assumed the mantle of a poet-shaman to replace his religious habit. The 1974 poem Man-Fate explores this transformation from Brother Antoninus into William Everson, the West-Coast poet-shaman. Everson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1972.

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. For the most part, Everson's reputation was based on his poetry, printing, and public readings.

In 2009 Everson's former student Steven Herrmann brought renewed attention to Everson as a shamanic teacher. Herrmann later compiled a series of interviews with the poet-shaman from 1991 to 1993 that were published as William Everson: The Shaman's Call. Everson maintained an adhesion to his Catholic faith until his final days. In 1982, by a meaningful coincidence, Everson was asked to write an introduction to Victor White's book God and the Unconscious. In the final two years of his life, Everson worked on an unfinished autobiographical work titled Dust Shall Be the Serpent's Food. Everson died at his home on June 2, 1994, and his body was buried at the Dominican Cemetery in Benicia, California.

Everson's papers are archived at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA[4] and The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.[5]

Black Sparrow Press released a three-volume series of the collected poems of Everson, the last volume was published in 2000. In 2003, the California Legacy Project published Dark God of Eros: A William Everson Reader.

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • 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
  • The Tarantella Rose (1995). Santa Cruz: Peter and Donna Thomas.

Autobiography and interviews[edit]

  • William Everson: The Shaman's Call, Interviews, Introduction, and Commentaries by Steven Herrmann (2009). New York, NY: Eloquent Books. ISBN 978-1-60860-604-7
  • Prodigious Thrust (1996). Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press.
  • William Everson: The Light the Shadow Casts. Five Interviews with William Everson. Edited and introduced by Clifton Ross. (1996). Devon, England: Stride Publications.
  • Naked Heart: Talking on Poetry, Mysticism, and the Erotic (1992). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Take Hold Upon the Future: Letters on Writers and Writing, 1938-1946 (1994). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
  • On Printing (1992). San Francisco: Book Club of California.
  • "William Everson: Nature Mystic and Poet Prophet," in Conversation with Matthew Fox. (1989). In Creation, Vol. 5, No. 3, September/October, 1989, pp. 10-14.

Literary criticism[edit]

  • Robinson Jeffers: Fragments of an Older Fury (1968) Berkeley: Oyez.
  • Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region (1976). 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.
  • Ostrom, Hans. "William Everson's `Earth Poetry' and the Progress Toward Feminism," Essays In Honor of William Everson, ed. Bill Hotchkiss. Corvalis, Oregon: Castle Peak Editions, 1993.
  • Herrmann, Steven. William Everson: The Shaman's Call, Expanded Edition. USA / Singapore: Strategic Books Rights and Publishing Co., 2016. ISBN 978-1-68181-179-6


  1. ^ 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" (PDF). Center for Columbia River History. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  2. ^ "Mary Fabilli". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. 2005. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  3. ^ Ripatrazone, Nick (July 1, 2019). "The Straightforward Catholic Legacy of Poet Artist Mary Fabilli". Angelus News. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  4. ^ "Register of the William Everson Papers, 1937-1971"
  5. ^ "Guide to the William Everson Papers"

External links[edit]