*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 3rd of June 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Some of my favorite characters on this show are those faithful saints who might seem a little nutty to the button-up world of cold reason and rational expectations.
Some of my favorite saints on this show are the outsiders, never fully comfortable in the church but neither fully comfortable in the world.
Rather than condemning a restless soul as a flip-flop, unstable, or insecure I would hope to find some as more kaleidoscopic in character than Janus-faced or duplicitous. All that to say: I like the weird characters even if I don’t always agree with them. And all THIS to say: I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite Christian outsiders and oddballs in the 20th century: William Everson. As a Dominican and beat poet, he was known as Brother Antoninus. Let’s break down his life:
Born in 1912 in Sacramento to Christian Scientists. William would come to embrace agnosticism in high school where he excelled as both a lineman on the football team and class valedictorian.
In the 30s he joined the New Deal Civilian Corp and took classes at Fresno State. Here he would read the poetry of Robinson Jeffers and marry Edwa, his first wife.
As a conscientious objector to World War 2, his alternative service included work with the Fine Arts project. After his service, he finds that his wife has had an affair with a friend and the two are divorced.
In 1946 he meets Mary Fabili and starts his printing by means of his own hand press. The press would be with him for the rest of his life, and Mary- a lapsed catholic- would introduce him to her childhood faith. He would have a conversion experience at midnight Mass in 1948.
But Mary is a divorcee and the newly confirmed Catholic couple realizes that they cannot partake in Catholic marriage. They split and Everson joined the Dominican Order as a lay brother.
In 1969 he left the Order to work on his poetry full time. He had been a recognized member of the San Francisco Beat scene as was invited to be the poet-in-residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
In 1978 a collection of his works “the Veritable Years” was named book of the year by the Conference of Christian Literature as well as the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He lived in Santa Cruz in a cabin known as the Kingfishers flat. Everson lived there until he succumbed to Parkinson's' disease and died in his sleep on this, the 3rd of June in 1994. He was 81 years old.
2 quick points about Everson/Antoninus
1- Augustine was especially important to his conversion but Everson rejected the Gnosticism of Augustine and other Christians who saw the body and intimacy as inherently sinful
2- While he was a beat poet and fan of Allen Ginsberg his work, especially his River-Root was an attempt to redeem the violent intimacy of Ginsberg with an eroticism more akin to the Song of Solomon
The final word comes from the Song of Solomon chapter 2:
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 3rd of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man strengthened by raisins and apples but is still faint with love, he is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who still blushes when reading SOS.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.