El tema central de este Blog es LA FILOSOFÍA DE LA CABAÑA y/o EL REGRESO A LA NATURALEZA o sobre la construcción de un "paradiso perduto" y encontrar un lugar en él. La experiencia de la quietud silenciosa en la contemplación y la conexión entre el corazón y la tierra. La cabaña como objeto y método de pensamiento. Una cabaña para aprender a vivir de nuevo, y como ejemplo de que otras maneras de vivir son posibles sobre la tierra.

sábado, 7 de julio de 2012

La cabaña de William Everson y el paisaje de la escritura

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Everson (1912-1994) photo by Robert Turney Courtesy of Black Sparrow Press

William Everson on the California Landscape

[NOTE: These passages are excerpted from Everson's introduction to Robinson Jeffers' The Alpine Christ and Other Poems, in which Everson alternates between comments on Jeffers and observations on the place where he is writing.]
I am writing from a remote cabin on Long Ridge, the extended hump of mountain that separates Rocky and Bixby Creeks on the coast south of Carmel. . . .
It is early morning. The sun, peering over Mescal Ridge, leaves its near flank in shadow. The giant redwoods that line Bear Trap Canyon, huddled together without distinction, are deep in shade. I know that by noon each one will stand out like a green cone under the straight descending light. By nightfall the sun at my back, shining flatly through, will reveal the skeletal structure of trunk and paired limbs. That, however, is ten hours away.
It is, I see by the sun, midmorning, and I pause a moment to relax. I get up to go inside for a cup of lukewarm coffee left over from breakfast, but a stirring deep in my entrails tells me it is time for the morning ablutions. I start along the trail to the outhouse. It lies a hundred feet or so downslope from the cabin, and is built without a wall to the front, so that you can sit there and gaze out into tranquil space, the sunlight falling about you, and ease yourself as people have done for thousands of years before the invention of plumbing. It is, as always, a relief to have the weight of so much dross taken from one, and, musing there in the aftermath of purgation, I let my gaze rove over the vast panorama before me. A lizard races around my toe and fixes me with unflinching eyes. I stare back at him unblinkingly and he moves on, impelled by a curiosity for marginal areas I deeply share. When I have finished the small ritual of cleansing, I stand up and fasten my clothes, then walk slowly back the trail to the cabin. Up in the yard I go under the redwoods where the spring is piped and wash my hands in the tin basin with a piece of soap. I toss the water into the ferns, and, not finding a towel, I wave my hands gently in the air to dry them. Going back to the cabin I get the lukewarm coffee I started for earlier. It is too savorless now to sip, so I gulp it down, then light a cigar. I could easily kill an hour or so like this, but soon put the cigar aside and get back into my chair. Crossing my legs with a sigh I take up my pen and pull together my thoughts.  
Looking up from my page I see by the sun that it is nearly noon (or, by daylight saving time, one o'clock) and time for lunch. I get up and go into the cabin and take out a loaf of bread and some cheese. Outside in the cooler over the spring are butter and milk, and in a bag under the eaves some apples and grapes. I make a sandwich and eat it slowly, gazing reflectively out in the void, thinking as I chew. A slight haze has thickened against Mescal Ridge, but the cool of the morning is not all dispelled. The distant redwoods, as I anticipated, stand out like phallic flames, each green cone thrust at the sun. Bear Trap Canyon kinks its wrinkle up the groin of Bixby Mountain. Time seems to hang over the world, suspended. After my sandwich and milk I slowly peel an apple and munch it. I would like some raisins and nuts but I have none, and instead eat the grapes, crushing them refreshingly in my mouth, spitting out seeds. I remember how, as boys, we used to wander the vineyards of the San Joaquin, finding the bunches of grapes the pickers had missed, gulping them down, spitting seeds before us as we roved. When I finish my meal I walk a bit through the cool redwoods back where the road curves in. I freshen my eyes on another view, west toward the mouth of Bixby Canyon, and the level sea. Then I return and sit down to my work again. In my mind I gather together the threads of the poem, and pick up my pen.
Pausing in my writing I look out over the vast expanse of Bixby Canyon. It is mid-afternoon. The sun is beginning to slant down toward the western rim, but the solar intensity is still at crescendo. Down below me a redtail hawk circles and dips, his remorseless gaze searching for prey on the slopes beneath. After a time he gives up and cries angrily, disturbed by something intruding below him which I can't see. In the redwoods over my head a jay answers the hawk feebly, only a scrawny imitation of the master he cannot rival. I get up and go over to a patch of sunlight splashing the cabin yard. On the slope to the east a group of wild pigs, almost rust color in the strong afternoon light, scampers out of the brush. Slipping inside the cabin I get my binoculars and in a moment I have them in focus. They pause tentatively to snuff the air, their weak eyes blinking, and move along again. I have seen their sign everywhere hereabout. The cascara berries are ripe, and the pigs, gorging themselves, discover the painful way that it is a powerful emetic. Across the slope they disappear into the brush, and I put the glasses down, exhilarated by this sudden manifestation from the wild. I go over to the spring, and from the dipper I gulp down a long draught of cold water, and am refreshed. Deceived by strong light I have the illusion that time is still young, and experience a momentary feeling of lassitude, but the urge to get on with it is nevertheless relentless. Going back to my chair I pick up the story of Jeffers' life.
Now, at last, my ear picks up the sound of the Toyota toiling up the long three mile grade from the old coast road at Division Knoll. Behind me, over Long Ridge, the sun is sinking. The flat light, striking the side of Mescal Ridge, plunges its rays deep in the crooked canyon, the zig-zag bear-trap jaws clamped on the thigh of Bixby Mountain. Like a luminous flood the light pours in and drenches each redwood of the slope, staining the tall trunks and the graceful, paired branches, which noon had hidden in dense shade, with living gold. It is the moment for which I have been waiting, the last leveling of the day. Now is the time to put down the pen, the time for the lighting of fires and the pouring of wine. But I have been stirred by a singularly compelling poem, a work of unformed genius, inchoate and bizarre, a work that will take years, and stricter minds than mine, to bring into focus.
My gaze, lingering on for a moment, perceives that the skeletal redwoods, pressed flatly together by the enveloping light, are like fossils of fish, matted on the sea floor silt many aeons ago. Trunk and branches are now spine and ribs, and the soft pointedness of each conifer is the fish-shape of long gone forms palpably impressed in the retentative element, retrieved out of time.
And I marvel at the subsuming power of life. As living forms we carry the fossils of our future within us, the unconscious element, ignored in our passion for objectivity , inexplicably to survive.
from The Alpine Christ and Other Poems, by Robinson Jeffers, with Commentary and Notes by William Everson. Cayucos Books, 1974.

William Everson ca 1992

The legacy of conscientious objection is not limited to political action and social reform. WWII COs made a significant contribution to the arts during the war years as well. Of the 45,000 Americans who declared themselves conscientious objectors during World War II, a number went on to become important figures in the cultural life of the United States. William Everson (later known as Brother Antonius, the Beat Friar), William Stafford (beloved teacher and poet laureate of Oregon) and Robert Lowell (who later was appointed poet laureate of the U.S.) were among the poets who refused to fight in the Second World War. (Read poems by William Everson and William Stafford.)

Located in a Church of the Brethren camp on the rugged Oregon coast, The Fine Arts Camp at Waldport, founded by poet William Everson, brought together talented individuals from many disciplines. Poets, writers, theater workers, painters, woodworkers, ceramic and silk screen artists, photographers, fine art printers and an architect were among those allowed to transfer to the camp. There they developed a dynamic program in the arts in their free time - after a 60-hour week of hard labor reforesting a devastated area on the coast.

Magazines produced at Waldport:

These interned draftees planted a million and a half trees, and five men lost their lives. After hours, they performed plays by Chekhov, read the works of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and put on a witty version of popular operetta The Mikado. They bought an old printing press, and CO Adrian Wilson learned the craft of letter set printing and typography from William Everson, the son of a printer. (Wilson later became one of the pre-eminent book designers of the 20th century, winning the MacArthur Genius Award for his work.) At Waldport, they produced two magazines, The Illiterati and The Compass, in addition to programs for the plays and elegant books of poetry.

"Our early books were dazzling, and in the reviews in the East, they were as praised for their typography and layout, presswork and design as they were for their contents. In fact, many times more."
- William Everson

In camp they held concerts with a quartet including Brodus Earle, who later became the concertmaster of the Tokyo Symphony. They held regular poetry readings, a practice that had been limited to the New York City's 92nd Street YMCA up to that point.

At Waldport, wives and women friends rented tourist cabins at the beach and performed in the theater productions at the camp. Together in post-war San Francisco they founded the Interplayers Theater.

Poets Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, and writer Henry Miller were pacifists who joined the new arrivals from Waldport, and birthed the "San Francisco Renaissance" in the arts which evolved into the "Beat Movement" of the 1950s.

The legacy of conscientious objection in the arts was not limited to Waldport. Lewis Hill had been in a CPS camp in Coleville, California. After the war he and several other COs founded the Pacifica Network and KPFA Radio in Berkeley, the world's first listener-sponsored radio station. KPFA was home to wide-ranging debates stretching the Cold War limits of free speech, weekly film reviews by Pauline Kael, lectures on Zen Buddhism by Alan Watts and poetry readings by Brother Antoninus, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Alan Ginsberg. The pioneering network brought the world of art and politics to the airwaves as never before. Ever immersed in controversy and threatened with calamity, the station CO Lew Hill envisioned remains the flagship of free speech listener-sponsored, non-commercial radio in the U.S. today.

Asa Watkins was among the first COs to work as an attendant in a mental hospital in Virginia. His work with the mental patients had a profound influence on his artwork. View some of his works in the gallery.

William Everson was born in Sacramento, California in 1912 to Christian Science parents on a farm near Selma in the San Joaquin Valley. During the Depression, he attended Fresno State College, but soon dropped out to devote his life to poetry after discovering the works of Robinson Jeffers. Everson published his first book of verse, We Are the Ravens in 1935. During World War II, he declared himself a conscientious objector and was placed in a series of work camps in the Pacific Northwest, where he first learned the art of handset printing and where he also completed The Residual Years, which brought him national attention. His marriage did not survive the war.

After the war, Everson joined the San Francisco Renaissance movement of poets and anarchists surrounding Kenneth Rexroth. In 1951, following his second failed marriage, he entered the Dominican Order. Donning the traditional Dominican robe and hood, he was a colorful and widely respected figure in the Beat literary movement for nearly two decades. He took the name of Brother Antoninus, under which he became well known. In 1957, after Kenneth Rexroth's "San Francisco Letter" appeared in the Evergreen Review, Everson was regarded as one of the San Francisco Renaissance poets (the Beats) and he was tagged with the name of "The Beat Friar".

In 1969, having fallen in love with his third wife, Susanna Rickson, Everson renounced his Dominican calling. Two years later he took a position at UCSC, where he taught a popular course called "Birth of a Poet" and founded the University's Lime Kiln Press. He also established himself as an important literary theorist with the publication of Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region.

In 1991, Everson was honored as Artist of the Year by the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission. Before an overflowing crowd at the county government center, the buckskin-draped Everson, shaking violently from advanced Parkinson's Disease and sipping occasionally from a bottle of Jack Daniels, read from his body of work. "I love you," he yelled to the adoring crowd at the conclusion of his reading. "Now go home!"

Everson published over fifty volumes of poetry as both Everson and Antoninus and was a handpress printer of worldwide distinction. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pulitzer nomination, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and the PEN Center USA West, Body of Work Award. Although virtually crippled by the nervous disorder that ultimately took his life, Everson never lost his zeal for the written word. He was at work on an epoch biographical poem, "Dust Shall Be the Serpent's Food", up until his death. Everson passed away on June 3, 1994 at his rustic cabin he dubbed Kingfisher Flat, just north of Santa Cruz on the California Coast. He was 81.

Kingfisher Flat

In the long drought
Impotence clutched on the veins of passion
Encircles our bed, a serpent of stone.
. . . . . . .

I think of the Fisher King,
All his domain parched in a sterile fixation of purpose,
Clenched on the core of the burning question
Gone unasked.
. . . . . . .

Oh, wife and companion!
The ancient taboo hangs over us,
A long suspension tightens its grip
On the seed of my passion and the flower of your hope.
Masks of drought deceive us. An inexorable forbearance
Falsifies the face of things, and makes inflexible
The flow of this life, the movement of this love.
. . . . . . .

I hear quaking grass
Shiver under the windowsill, and out along the road
The ripe mallow and the wild oat
Rustle in the wind. Deeper than the strict
Interdiction of denial or the serpentine coiling of time,
Woman and earth lie sunk in sleep, unsatisfied.
Each holds that bruise to her heart like a stone
And aches for rain.


Some seed in me,
Some troublous birth,
Like an awkward awakening,
stirs into life.

Terrible and instinctive
It touches my guts.
I fear and resist it,
Crouch down on my norms, a man's
Patent assurances.

I don't know its nature.
I have no term for it.
I cannot see its shape.
But, there, inscrutable,
Just underground,
Is the long-avoided tatency.

Like the mushrooms in the oak wood,
Where the high-sloped mountain
Benches the sea,
When the faint rains of November
Damp down the duff,
Wakening their spores---
Like them,
Gross, thick and compelling,
What I fear and desire
Pokes up its head.

The Poet Is Dead
(excerpted from a memorial for Robinson Jeffers)

Snow on the headland,
The strangely beautiful
Oblique concurrence,
The strangely beautiful
Setting of death.

The great tongue
Dries in the mouth. I told you.
The voiceless throat
Cools silence. And the sea-granite eyes.
Washed the sibilant waters
That stretched lips kiss peace.

The poet is dead.

Nor will ever again hear the sea lions
Grunt in the kelp at Point Lobos.
Nor look to the south when the grunion
Run the Pacific, and the plunging
Shearwaters, insatiable,
Stun themselves in the sea.


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