The Centennial of Poet William Everson / Brother Antoninus, Press Release about Everson Events
Northern California Readings and performaces will honor the shaman/poet of the California landscape, prophet of erotic spirituality, and herald of the environmental revolution
William Everson/Brother Antoninus (1912 – 1994) was a major figure of the San Francisco Literary Renaissance, shamanistic poet of the California landscape, renowned hand-press printer, prophet of erotic earth-based spirituality, and herald of the environmental revolution.
The Bay Area will honor the centennial of his birth with an evening of poetry and reflections on Friday, Sept. 21 from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. in the Berkeley City College Auditorium, 2050 Center St., Berkeley, CA.
Matthew Fox, the renowned theologian and founder of Creation Spirituality, will offer the keynote talk for the evening on Everson/Antoninus and the spiritual crisis of our time. Jungian therapist and writer Steven Herrmann will offer his reflections on Everson/Antoninus. The poetry reading will include Lorna Dee Cervantes, Janet DeBar, David Fetcho, Rafael Jesús González, Mary Norbert Korte and Jim Powell, with Clifton Ross as MC. Gerardo Omar Marín will perform music.
William Everson grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, and after his discovery of Robinson Jeffers, dedicated his life to poetry rooted in the California landscape. His pacifism led him to oppose World War II. He spent nearly eight years in a work camp for conscientious objectors in Waldport, where he founded Untide Press and made the Quaker camp into a center for peace culture. After his release in 1948 Everson returned to the Bay Area where, with Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, James Broughton, Robin Blaser, Madeline Gleason and others, he became involved in an emerging counter-cultural movement that became known as the San Francisco Literary Renaissance, which laid the groundwork for the “Beats” to emerge a few years later.
Everson had a religious conversion and joined the Catholic Worker movement before entering the Dominican order and becoming “Brother Antoninus.” While in the order he proved his skills as a hand press printer; some consider his unfinished to be one of the major printing achievements of the twentieth century. He also began to delve into Jungian psychology and work out an erotic spirituality that shocked his superiors and brought him into conflict with the conservative church and culture of 1950s North America. Along with Gary Snyder, Brother Antoninus explored the connections between poetry and shamanism and he saw the craft of poetry as an element for the healing of the “tribe.”
He finally left the Dominican order in 1976, recovered his identity as William Everson and moved eventually to Santa Cruz where he taught printing and a class he called “Birth of a Poet” at UCSC. He integrated his early pantheistic, Jeffersian sensibilities with what he had learned in the monastic order to create work based on a unified spirituality rooted in nature. His numerous books of poetry were collected into three major volumes: “The Residual Years,” “The Veritable Years,” and “The Integral Years.” His selected works, published posthumously, “The Dark God of Eros” (2003, Heyday Books) were edited and introduced by Stanford professor Albert Gelpi, who called Everson/Antoninus “the greatest religious poet of the second half of the twentieth century.”
A day-long celebration of William Everson’s life and work will also take place October 20 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Kresge College Town Hall of the University of California, Santa Cruz 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz. Speakers will include Lee Bartlett, Allan Campo, Janet DeBar, Matthew Fox, Steven Herrmann, Clifton Ross, Alan Stacy and others.
The Berkeley event will be sponsored by the Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center (TREC)/Freedom Voices, the Santa Cruz celebration by TREC/Freedom Voices and Kresge College. Both events are free and open to the public and are also wheelchair accessible. Donations will be welcomed.
Event Organizers and Sponsors
Three friends of William Everson have joined together to organize the events in Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Please feel free to contact one or all three for more interviews, statements and reflections on the poet, his life and his work.
Like William Everson, Matthew Fox was a Dominican (for 34 years), though unlike Everson he was expelled by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) who called his book “Original Blessing” “dangerous and deviant.” Fox’s concept of "Original Blessing" is the opposite of "original sin" thinking. It holds that existence is a blessing, i.e. a good, and that all beings are born beautiful and as blessings, and that humanity’s task is to nurture, preserve, and develop that primal goodness and beauty so that it serves the larger community, blessing to blessing. Everson especially appreciated Fox’s work on Meister Eckhart and on the Cosmic Christ. One of Everson’s last acts was to endorse Fox’s book on Thomas Aquinas called “Sheer Joy” with the following comments: “Seizing Aquinas by scapular and capuche, Fox hauls him point by point through the fundamental issues of our day. The introduction is the finest thing on Aquinas I have ever read. It picks him up where Pieper and Chenu left him at mid-century and lifts him bodily through the paradigm shift into the new millennium.” Fox is author of 30 books on spirituality and culture, the most recent being “The Hidden Spirituality of Men,” “The Pope’s War,” “Christian Mystics” and “Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power for the 21st Century.”
Steven Herrmann, PhD was a student, teaching assistant, and facilitator of dream groups in William Everson’s celebrated course “Birth of a Poet” at Kresge College UC Santa Cruz during the years 1979-1981. Everson served as faculty advisor for Herrmann’s senior thesis, “Meister Eckhart on the Recollection of the Self.” In 1990 Bill Everson “called” Herrmann to his home at Kingfisher Flat on Big Creek to co-author a book, which led to a series of 11 conversations culminating in “William Everson: The Shaman’s Call,” published in 2009. Steven is a Jungian psychotherapist and writer. His literary focus has been on American poetry and its relationship to the American myth from an analytic standpoint. He has presented papers internationally and published numerous articles, including “A Conversation with William Everson: Shamanism, American Poetry, and the Vision Quest” in The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal. He also published “Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul.” Steven Herrmann is in private practice in San Francisco and Oakland.
The interviews in Clifton Ross’s book, “William Everson: The Light the Shadow Casts” (1996, Stride Publications, UK; 2012 Freedom Voices Publications) date from 1980 until Everson’s death in 1994. Ross’ selected poems, “Translations from Silence” (2009, Freedom Voices Publication; published in Spanish translation 2011, Editorial Perro y Rana, Venezuela) won PEN Oakland’s Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence in 2010. Clif represented the U.S. in the World Poetry Festival of Venezuela in 2005. His translations include the book-length poem by Fr. Ernesto Cardenal, “Quetzalcóatl,” and “Voice of Fire,” the first collection of Zapatista writings to appear in English. Ross’ first feature-length film, “Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out,” was released by PM Press in Oakland, CA. He is currently finishing work on a film about Occupy Oakland (The Rise and Fall of the Oakland Commune) and working with his wife, Marcy Rein, on Until the Rulers Obey, a collection of interviews with protagonists in Latin American social movements, forthcoming with PM Press.
Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center/Freedom Voices, www.freedomvoices.org, is a co-sponsor of this event.