In Memorium: Peter Everwine — 1930 – 2018
Peter Everwine died in his home in Fresno, CA during the night Oct. 27. He had been active, happy, and healthy, and recently had given a reading of his new poems to an enthusiastic audience in a local series.
Everwine was one of the most accomplished and valued poets and translators writing in the United States. His long and estimable career included the Lamont Poetry Prize, a senior Lecturer Fulbright award for the University of Haifa, Israel, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Foundation, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. “There is something shining and pure—a radiant clarity,” writes Edward Hirsch, “a luminous stillness at the heart of Peter Everwine’s beautiful, mysterious, and necessary work.” His poems have been published in The Paris Review, POETRY, Western Review, The New Yorker, Antaeus, Field, The Iowa Review, The Ohio Review, Crazyhorse, Kayak, and Kenyon Review among many other prominent literary journals, and his poems have been widely anthologized for over the last fifty years.
Everwine’s recent collections of poetry are The Countries We Live In: Selected Poems of Natan Zach 1955-1979 (Tavern Books, 2011), and Listening Long and Late (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), and the limited edition poetry chapbook A Small Clearing (Aureole Press, 2016).
Peter Everwine was born in Detroit and grew up in western Pennsylvania. He attended Northwestern University and the University of Iowa. In 1962 he began teaching at Fresno State and retired from CSU Fresno in 1992. He is the author of eight collections of poetry including Collecting the Animals (Atheneum) which won the Lamont Poetry Prize, Keeping the Night, (Atheneum), and From the Meadow: New & Selected Poems (2004) from the Univ. of Pittsburgh Press.
From l962 through 1991, Everwine taught at the California State University Fresno. Together with Philip Levine, and later C.G.Hanzlicek, he was responsible for one of the most productive and renowned creative writing programs in America—often referred to as “the Fresno School,” though in fact there was no “school” aspect to it, given the wide range of talents and voices among the poets. Many nationally recognized poets today owe their careers and writing lives in large part to their time in Fresno working with the poets there, especially the influence and guidance of Peter Everwine, his poetry, and his teaching. Poets Larry Levis, David St. John, Roberta Spear, Gary Soto, Dixie Salazar, Ernesto Trejo, Kathy Fagan, Greg Pape, Jon Veinberg, and Luis Omar Salinas are but a few whose skills and poetic sensibilities were influenced and shaped there.
Everwine was known not only for his poetry workshops but also for courses in which he taught poetry in translation. He presented Eastern European poetry, Aztec, Swedish, and Israeli poetry among many others. He published translations of the Nauhuatl/Aztec, In the House of Light, Stone Wall Press 1970, and later would publish The Static Element: Selected Poems of Natan Zach, the Israeli poet, Atheneum, in 1983. These voices and strategies had a deep effect on the poetry Everwine began to write in the 1960s and afterwards, and contributed greatly to the unique voice he would develop in his own work.
Everwine’s was a singlular vision in American Poetry. His poems speak in a universal voice, one that is elemental, not circumscribed in its imagery and symbols. The themes and occasions of his poetry often take up emotion, building a vision that stretches across the centuries, that is not limited by a strict time and setting. Yet, he is one of the most accessible of poets. Although he rarely pointed to the incidentals of his own, autobiographical life, the humanity at the emotional center of each of his poems, their first-hand experiential vision, is unmistakable and resonant. His friends are working on bringing out an edition of his new and last poems and interviews.
We Were Running
in memory of Annie
We were running up the slope of a hill,
that dog and I, an early winter rain
beginning to fall, wind-driven and sharp,
the clouds so black the edges of the hills
were etched and incandescent. That dog
and I were running, the two of us
apart and yet together, and even now,
in the solitude of a quiet hour—the days
and that dog long gone—I can follow
those far-blown traces of unexpected joy
and find my way back again: heart wild,
lungs filling with the breath of winter,
and that dog beside me running headlong
into the world without end.
(this poem first appeared in HUBBUB, and was collected in A Small Clearing, Aureole Press, 2016)