Skip to main content
William Everson Portrait

Born in Sacramento, California, William Everson was the son of a Norwegian composer. He attended Fresno State College until leaving in 1935 to write poetry. Robinson Jeffers was one of his strongest literary influences at the time. He was a conscientious objector during World War II, working as a forester in Oregon for three years, and soon afterwards joined the San Francisco anarcho-pacifist group centered around poet Kenneth Rexroth. In 1949, Everson converted to Roman Catholicism, wrote “The Making of the Cross,” and the following year he joined the Catholic Worker Movement. In 1951 he entered the Dominican Order as a lay brother without vows and took the name Brother Antoninus, but he left the monastery and rejoined the secular world in 1969. Before his conversion Everson had written poems of erotic mysticism and pantheism, as well as poems against war. In the early 1950s, the period when "A Canticle to the Waterbirds" was written, he wrote poems of great religious passion, but the differences were not absolute. "Canticle" is essentially a proof of the existence of God based on the evidence of nature's fecundity.