William Everson: The Shaman’s Call–Expanded Edition by Steven Herrmnn

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It is a great honor to be able to share with the public this new publication of William Everson: The Shaman’s Call―Expanded Edition.

William Everson: The Shaman's Call--Expanded Edition by Steven Herrmnn 1I was a student at U. C. Santa Cruz during the years 1978-1982 when I had the good fortune to have been a teaching assistant and facilitator of dream groups in William Everson’s celebrated course “Birth of a Poet” at Kresge College, on the UCSC campus. In “Birth of a Poet,” I and many students at UCSC felt personally that we were being initiated into the meaning of being a California poet by one of the seminal fathers of American poetry. In 1980, Everson asked me to be his teaching assistant and lead dream groups for his course, where the aim was to help students locate their calling to vocation.
This is the way I got to know Everson personally. From Everson’s empirical research into the nature of vocational dreams on the UCSC campus he could see from a vista in the Native American cultural psyche, where the drum beat and rattle of the shaman were experienced as the heart-beat of the Nation: “The center is the drum, throbbing at the center of reality; everything that has life dances to that primal beat.” From this vantage point he set out to chart a post-Jungian journaling method that could help lead students to discover the central factor of spiritual experience: the Self.

amazon_logo_transparent2His notion of the vocational archetype provided the way in. Out of his spiritual center—the calling—Everson spoke to students at UCSC in an effort to reconnect them to their origins. The goal of the course was to deepen students’ understanding of themselves, their unconscious and instinctive motivations, as well as to develop their ability to express themselves through poetic writing and in that way to gain a deeper understanding of their literary vocation.

I was honored to see Everson bring his remarkable series of meditations on the UC campus to a close during his final three years there, but I am even more grateful to be able to say that Everson and I continued to discuss the theme of the vocational archetype during the next decade until his death. In February of 1985, I interviewed Everson on the notion of the vocational archetype, which became a starting point for my Master’s Thesis research. In 1990, Everson “called” me down to his home at Kingfisher Flat on Big Creek to co-author a book with him. It originally consisted of a series of 11 conversations that culminated in my writing of William Everson: The Shaman’s Call, published in 2009. William Everson: The Shaman’s Call―Expanded Edition published in mid-December 2015 commemorates the Centennial of William Everson’s birth (September 10, 1912). My four centennial lectures now appear in

Part II of this book, as well as “Seven Meditations: William Everson’s Basic Teachings on Vocation,” and an unpublished conversation with Everson on “vocatypes.” In this final conversation, Everson coined a new word―vocatypes―to lay stress on the fact that though archetypes present in all of us are only self-realized images of instinct, our instinctual imperative is to produce our own vocalizations of what these instincts portend. It is the poet’s job to express the vocalizing function latent in the culture, but pressing for expression in each of us.

amazon_logo_transparent2Through being in the sacred time of origins with Everson, I was put in imaginal colloquy with the shaman-ancestors of American Poetry. In this new edition of The Shaman’s Call we get a clear description of a historical regression in the service of vocation, a regression from the then-contemporary idea of poet as literary figure (along the lines of Robert Frost, T.S. Elliot, and Wallace Stevens) to a shamanic figure who takes it upon himself not just to depict the wasteland of contemporary culture, but actually to try to heal it. In Walt Whitman’s and Robinson Jeffers’s wake, this way of a shamanic healer was also an imperative thrust on writers and poets to clear a path between the opposites of poet and prophet, if sacred is to meet the profane and redeem it. Everson saw such a path as that of the poet-shaman. He embodied the shamanic archetype and encouraged his students and readers to shamanize! The “destiny of America,” Everson said, depends on this.

amazon_logo_transparent2Medicine men, and medicine women, like Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, Jeffers, and Everson, heal the earth, the waters, and the air we breathe because they express the Nature they are called upon to save. Herrmann asks readers to help find ways to join our voices to that of the California shaman―William Everson―whose life and works are being celebrated in this new and exciting book.

 

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