By Reader Services Assistant, David Eng
When I was shown my office during my first day of employment at the Clark Library there was a framed broadside hanging on the wall announcing the establishment of William Everson’s Equinox Press in 1947, which also featured a block print by his partner Mary Fabilli.
I considered this an auspicious beginning having been an admirer of William Everson’s work as both a poet and a printer since I was a teenager after becoming enamored with the writers of the Bay Area literary renaissance of the 50’s and 60’s. I was excited to discover that we not only had a number of his works in our fine press collection but also 31 boxes of his correspondence, working drafts, proofs and various ephemera.
Raised on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley Everson became skilled in the craft of printing while at a Civilian Public Service camp in Oregon as conscientious objector during WWII. Encountering the work of California poet Robinson Jeffers confirmed Everson’s own poetic convictions. His epic and dramatic verses about the California landscape resonated deeply with Everson: “It was an intellectual awakening and religious conversion in one . . . Jeffers showed me God.” Everson converted to Catholicism in 1951, entering the Dominican order as a monk under the name of Brother Antoninus and becoming known in the news as “the Beat Friar.” After almost 20 years Everson eventually left the monastic order and became poet-in-residence at UC Santa Cruz where he started Lime Kiln Press.
It was Lime Kiln Press that published the work of art which has become my favorite piece in the Clark Library’s holdings: a collection of poems entitled Granite and Cypress by Robinson Jeffers. The standing wooden slipcase is made from Monterey Cypress and features a square window of polished granite from Jeffers’ very own stoneyard, from which he constructed his Tor House and Hawk Tower in Big Sur. The book itself is exquisitely printed as an oblong folio bound with open-laced deerskin and featuring woodcuts by William Prochnow.
When I want to show students and patrons a rare and singular specimen of fine binding and printing, this is primary work I’m most eager to display.