William Everson Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Never hesitant about admitting his literary indebtedness to Robinson Jeffers, since it was the poetry of Jeffers that seized him as a youth and helped him realize his own vocation as a poet, William Everson wrote numerous introductions to reprinted editions of Jeffers’s work, as well as a critical study, Robinson Jeffers: Fragments of an Older Fury (1968). Like his older mentor, Everson was intensely interested in the West as landscape and California as region, and he explored both of these concerns, as subject matter and sources for art, in Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region (1976). The importance of regional identity, as well as what he perceived to be the artist’s responsibility in portraying as honestly as possible the disparity between the inner (human) and the outer (natural) landscapes, was the central focus of many of Everson’s essays and lectures, many of which are contained in Earth Poetry: Selected Essays and Interviews of William Everson, 1950-1977 (1980) and Birth of a Poet (1982).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

The most dramatic poet of the Western landscape since Jeffers, William Everson always provoked extreme responses from his audience—either intense admiration for his painful, self-probing, and self-revealing confessionalism, or intense dislike for the extremely visceral histrionics of his verse and his voice on the reading platform. In like manner, neither his poetry nor his life was ever lukewarm. Indeed, it is difficult to consider his art as separate from his life, since his poetry was personal from the beginning of his career; it was not until his third book of poems, The Masculine Dead, however, that he noticeably broke away from Jeffers and moving into the intensely confessional verse for which he became known. While Robert Lowell is usually acknowledged as the first American poet since Hart Crane to advance the art of the sequence and as the harbinger of the modern confessional mode of poetry, Everson had actually been developing the sequence form and the confessional voice since 1939, twenty years before Lowell’s Life Studies (1959) was published. Using his literal self as a symbol of the modern predicament, Everson, as he says in Birth of a Poet, “spent the greater part of my life trying to probe down through the negative factors to find the living root which makes me what I am.”

Probing down into himself to discover his “living root” meant, in a national sense, discovering the American character. During...

(The entire section is 571 words.)


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bartlett, Lee. William Everson. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1985. This brief monograph provides a useful introduction to the major phases of the poet’s life, his movement from Everson to Antoninus and back to Everson. Strangely, however, Bartlett focuses more on Everson’s accomplishments as a master printer than his achievements as a poet. Discussion of Everson’s poems is minimal.

_______. William Everson: The Life of Brother Antoninus. New York: New Directions, 1988. Although informative about Everson’s relationship with Kenneth Rexroth in the early 1950’s, as well as about Everson’s place in the San Francisco Renaissance, Bartlett’s study provides only cursory readings of Everson’s poems and no discussion at all of the poet’s second marriage to Mary Fabilli, the relationship that served as a catalyst for Everson’s conversion to Catholicism. Contains an excellent bibliography.

_______, ed. Benchmark and Blaze: The Emergence of William Everson. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1979. A collection of twenty-two critical appraisals of the poetry and printing of Everson, this work provides an excellent overview of the poet-printer’s distinguished career and accomplishments. Presented here are appraisals by such writers as Robert Duncan, Ralph J. Mills, Jerome Mazzaro, William Stafford, Kenneth Rexroth, and Albert Gelpi.

Carpenter, David A. The Rages of Excess: The Life and Poetry of William Everson. Bristol, Ind.: Wyndham Hall Press, 1987. A critical biography that is also a Jungian study attempts to interpret the poet’s complex psychology and life via close analysis of the poetic canon and vice versa. Noteworthy here are the close, detailed discussions of Everson’s long poems, such as his “The Chronicle of Division” and Tendril in the Mesh. Good bibliography.

Everson, William. Interviews. William Everson: The Light the Shadow Casts. Edited by Clifton Ross. Berkeley, Calif.: New Earth, 1996. Five interviews with Everson with corresponding poems. Offers invaluable insight into the life and work of the poet.

Herrmann, Steven. William Everson: The Shaman’s Call—Interviews, Introduction, and Commentaries. New York: Eloquent Books, 2009. Jungian psychotherapist Herrmann was asked by Everson to collaborate on a book in 1991. This work, which contains some interviews by Herrmann, examines shamanism in Everson’s poetry.

Houston, James D., et al. The Death of a Poet: Santa Cruz Writers, Poets, and Friends Remember William Everson. Austin, Tex.: W. Thomas Taylor, 1994. A collection of biographical essays about Everson originally published in Metro Santa Cruz in 1994 following Everson’s death.