Monday, October 30, 2023

William Everson*

William Everson (1912—1994) is a northern California poet, known as part of the beat movement of San Francisco in the 1950s. His early books such as These Are The Ravens (1935) established him as a nature poet. He embraced Catholicism in 1948, and he entered the Dominican Order as Brother Antoninus in 1951.

His rise to fame came during this time of discovered faith — as his second wife returned to church, and encouraged him to join her. Ironically, because they had both previously been married their union was not recognized by the Catholic church, and so they separated and, years later, divorced.

In 1957 Kennoth Rexroth’s “San Francisco Letter” in the Evergreen Review declared the significance of this new movement of poets — including William Everson — which established him in the popular press as “The Beat Friar,” and led to readings across the US and as far away as Europe.

He left the Dominican Order in 1969 for a secular life to allow himself to pursue a romantic relationship with the woman who would become his third wife; he did, however, maintain his poetic vocation and his Christian faith.

Out of the Ash

Solstice of the dark, the absolute
Zero of the year. Praise God
Who comes for us again, our lives
Pulled to their fisted knot,
Cinched tight with cold, drawn
To the heart’s constriction; our faces
Seamed like clinkers in the grate,
Hands like tongs—Praise God
That Christ, phoenix immortal,
Springs up again from solstice ash,
Drives his equatorial ray
Into our cloud, emblazons
Our stiff brow, fries
Our chill tears. Come Christ,
Most gentle and throat-pulsing Bird!
O come, sweet Child! Be gladness
In our church! Waken with anthems
Our bare rafters! O phoenix
Forever! Virgin-wombed
And burning in the dark,
Be born! Be born!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Everson: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.