The Blood of the Poet

Few poets of this century have so mapped the agonies and ecstasies of religious devotion as William Everson. Everson, who published under the name of “Brother Antoninus” when he was a lay brother in the Dominican order, wrote a psychologically confessional poetry focusing upon his self-doubts, his “dark nights of the soul,” his difficulties in reconciling his erotic and literary proclivities with his Catholicism.

THE BLOOD OF THE POET was published at almost exactly the same time that the elderly poet died at his Santa Cruz home in the spring of 1994. It is a thoughtfully compiled collection that offers an eloquent testimony to the complexity of the poet’s thinking. The earliest poems here are reflections on the human evil unleased during wartime. (Everson was a conscientious objector during World War II.) The later poems are pantheistic celebrations of eroticism and Nature.

Everson’s eye for the divinely inspired wonders of Nature makes a poem like “A Canticle to the Waterbirds” a stirring celebration of the speed, color, and personalities of those creatures. His appreciation of the natural world extends even to such topics as drought, lyrically addressed in “Spikehorn.” Even readers with little interest in religious poetry will find their senses refreshed by Everson’s vivid imagery.

At the heart of this book the reader will find concisely crafted interior monologues about one man’s wrestling match with God, a dueling which led him to various identities both within and without the Catholic church over the years. The clarity with which these poems sincerely reflect those struggles of faith makes these poems useful reading to anyone confronting the inner voice of the skeptic.