WILLIAM EVERSON: The Life of Brother Antoninus by Lee Bartlett

WILLIAM EVERSON: The Life of Brother Antoninus

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A revelatory biography of one of the more exuberant characters to emerge from the West Coast literary milieu, poet-priest William Everson, a.k.a. Brother Antoninus. Born William Oliver Everson in 1912, the future poet grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, evolving haphazardly via whatever intellectual tidbits might be culled from the hinterland and nursing a strong eccentric personality under the influence of Robinson Jeffers' verse. With the outbreak of WW II, Everson registered as a conscientious objector, and found himself among a tolerable concentration of intellects. Following the end of the war and a strained marriage, he landed in Berkeley, expanding his contacts and developing his verse, by this time characterized by high Jeffersian pantheism and ""Lawrentian erotic mysticism."" Growing dissatisfaction with pantheism, a stint at one of Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker missions, and the influence of St. Augustine's Confessions led to conversion and, in 1951, entry as Brother Antoninus into the Dominican Order. Still writing verse, Everson emerged as a public figure in the early 60's (sometimes erroneously cast as a Beat monk), but his topsy-turvy career as a Dominican ended when he left the Order, with great fanfare, to marry a woman 35 years his junior. It's to Bartlett's credit as a biographer that all of this moves along, somehow, without attempts at rationalization. So: a major life, a minor poet, and a worthwhile addition to the under-documented history of the West Coast literary scene.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1988
Publisher: New Directions