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AUCTION 22

 

Unusual Bicentennial Poem for the United States


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181.     EVERSON, William. River-Root: A Syzygy for the Bicentennial of These States. [Berkeley]: Oyez [designed by Thomas Whitridge and printed at the Watsonville Press], 1976. 50, [4] pp., illustrated with erotic line drawings in sepia by Patrick Kennedy. 4to (32 x 25 cm), publisher’s original half tan calf over decorative grey boards, spine gilt lettered. Fragile spine extremities slightly chafed and a few minor small spots on lower cover, else very fine.

     Limited edition of an unusual poetic tribute to the bicentennial of the naissance of the United States. The print run was 250 copies, 200 offered for sale, this being copy “O” of 26 lettered copies, signed by Everson on colophon, followed by his written verse: “And ever the River, Its heart pulsing, the phallos Running in the wound of earth, The strength running seaward….” Everson’s poetry is followed by “Author’s Afterword” which includes a line-drawing portrait of the poet. The influence of Walt Whitman, whose verses are opposite the title and to whom the work is dedicated, is strongly expressed in this erotic poem with beautifully understated art work. Though written in 1957, due to its explicit eroticism this poem was not published until 1976.

     In his narrative poem, Everson explores the archetypal union of the sexual act, situating the action of the poem and its protagonists, the New Adam and New Eve, on the Mississippi River, as a symbol of an American version of Paradise Regained. In his dedication, the poet states:

In preparing this manuscript for publication, its specifically American character became more keenly impressed upon me than I had earlier felt it. And I realized that in issuing it during this 200th anniversary of our founding I am, in effect, offering it as a poet’s gift to the Nation; and so dedicated it, as Whitman might have, to the Bicentennial of these States.

Everson in his Afterword remarks:

Centennials are resurrections no less than commemorations. At such times the root energies of the nation seem to cry out for renewal, restoring people’s faith in their mythic origins…. Such a thing, is River-Root, a poem of the mating of man and woman, that syzygy…touching the American ethos in a manner its author never dreamed when he wrote it….

     Everson (1912-1994) was an influential member of the San Francisco Renaissance, which evolved into the Beat movement. A deeply serious and religious writer, he spent eighteen years as a Dominican monk and published many of his works under the name Brother Antoninus. He was variously classified as a nature poet, an erotic poet, and a religious poet, but James A. Powell in Dictionary of Literary Biography states that “above all else, Everson is an autobiographical, even a confessional poet. Throughout his career…. he has made his personal life the predominant subject of his poetry.”

($100-200)

Sold. Hammer: $100.00; Price Realized: $120.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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