Detroit, Michigan: The University of Detroit Press, 1962. Early edition. Oblong quarto (8 1/2 inches tall), sewn in original black cloth, original dust jacket. Two short closed tears to upper rear panel of jacket. A nearly-fine copy. Item #813
"NO MATTER HOW CROOKED I SET IT DOWN, GOD WRITES IT STRAIGHT" Third edition of William Everson’s most important book of poems—this copy inscribed as "Brother Antoninus/May 13, 1965." A conscientious objector during the Second World War, Everson was sent to a camp in Oregon where he mastered the craft of printing on a hand press. After the war, Everson was associated with the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance after the appearance of the Residual Years (1948). Under the spell of St. Augustine's Confessions, Everson took a dramatic turn towards the Church. "At a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, 1948, Everson underwent a mystical experience, and the following July he was baptized at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. He soon began working for Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement on Oakland’s Skid Row...In his private devotions Everson continued to have mystical encounters" (Dana Gioia, "Brother Beat," Crisis Magazine).
With a title derived from a Portuguese proverb ("God writes straight with crooked lines"), the Crooked Lines of God was the fruit of the first great flush of Everson's conversion and entrance into the Third Order of St. Dominic, where he re-emerged as Brother Antoninus. Everson's two decades as a lay Dominican brother were arguably the summit of his poetic creativity. "Everson’s conversion unleashed a torrent of poetic creation. Many critics rate the three major collections published under the name of Brother Antoninus as his finest poetic works: The Crooked Lines of God (1959), The Hazards of Holiness (1962), and The Rose of Solitude (1967). In this feverishly visionary poetry, Everson abandons his earlier style to create an expansive lyrical mode. The poems often sprawl reflecting the ebb and tide of the author’s religious exhilaration, ecstasy, and despair" (Gioia).
The poems are divided into three sections. Part One: Out of the Depths, Part Two: In the Crucible, Part Three: Out of the Ash. A brief Foreword (dated, "St. Albert's College/Dominican House of Studies/Oakland, California/September 14, 1957/The Feast f the Holy Cross") describes three phases of spiritual development reflected in these poems: Vision Christmastide of 1949-50 (St. Augustine), the Catholic Worker House (Franciscan mystic), and Dominican (Spanish Baroque). Everson would leave the Dominicans in 1969 but his peak during the 1950's and 60's "represents an important part of the American Catholic literary tradition—a legacy still too little known, even by Catholics" (Gioia). Printed "Cum Permissu Superiorum" by the Albertus Magnus Press at St. Albert's College, Oakland and published as volume "Number One of the Contemporary Poets Series" by the University of Detroit Press.