William Everson Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

William Oliver Everson, born September 10, 1912, in Sacramento, California, was the second of three children and the first son of Lewis Everson and Francelia Everson. It is noteworthy that Everson was the first son of his family because throughout his career he has stressed (in his poetry, in some autobiographical essays, and quite specifically in his autobiography, Prodigious Thrust, 1996) that an Oedipal complex is a key factor in his own psychology, in his strained relationship with his father, and in his relationship with the women in his life. Everson’s mother, almost twenty years younger than his father, had been Roman Catholic but was forced to leave the Church to marry the man she loved (a fact of increasing importance to the poet later in his life when he converted to Catholicism). Everson’s father was a Norwegian emigrant and had been an itinerant printer, musician, and bandmaster until, with a wife and children, he settled in Selma, California, in 1914, and there established the Everson Printery in 1920. As a boy, Everson looked to his mother for support, confidence, and emotional understanding, while growing increasingly intimidated, resentful, and—he has said—even hateful of his father, a taciturn and self-professed atheist who believed Christianity and faith in an afterlife were below the dignity of enlightened minds. In short, from infancy, Everson was exposed to—and often torn between—the extreme differences of his parents’ dispositions and sensibilities.

Everson’s first poetic attempts were love poems he wrote to his high school sweetheart, beginning in his junior year. In his senior year, he wrote topical poems for the Selma High School yearbook, The Magnet. After graduation (June, 1931), he enrolled in Fresno State College the following fall but remained there only one semester, during which time he had what might be called his first “literary” poem, “The Gypsy Dance” (blatantly derived from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells,” with its strict trochaic meter and long lines), published in The Caravan, the Fresno State College literary magazine. Unable to find anything in college interesting enough to keep him, he returned to his parents’ home (December, 1932) and remained there, while working at a local cannery, until June, 1933, when he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Except for short leaves of absence, Everson remained in the CCC camp for a year, but he felt intellectually deficient and painfully isolated, so he returned to Fresno State in the fall of 1934. This time, he remained enrolled for the entire academic year, and he found something that was not only interesting but also inspiring: the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. It was after...

(The entire section is 1115 words.)