Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Conjuring Jesus poems: Homoerotic taste of heaven

A vibrantly alive Jesus, complete with homoerotic desires, emerges from the poetry of Brian Day in his new book “Conjuring Jesus.”

From the very first poem, Day delves into the bisexuality that Jesus inherited from his ancestor King David. Some of the most wonderful poems present what I call a “gay Jesus.” He bonds with his male Beloved, sits beside a near-naked young man, gets trapped in gay love triangle with Judas, and endures the humiliation of being called “faggot.” In “Better Not to Marry” (reprinted below), Jesus praises the “unmarrying brand of men” that God created.

Day, a Toronto teacher, conjures up a Jesus who is both sexual and spiritual, “wholly versatile” and “an unscrupulous party boy” who eats and drinks with sinners. Day distills the essence of Jesus in a sensuous, playful way that remains true to the human spirit and to the spirit of the gospels. His poems liberate the soul with a fresh, unrestricted view of Jesus.

The 49 short poems in this slim volume work both as literature and as devotional reading for the open-minded. They are arranged to follow Jesus from his baptism through his death and resurrection, with parables and miracles sprinkled throughout.

Like Day, I wrote about a queer Christ in my “Jesus in Love” novels. I know how hard it is to “conjure” a Jesus who is erotically alive while transcending all categories of male or female, gay or straight, God or human. I appreciate the deft style with which Day accomplishes the task. For example, in “Jesus, Versatile” he manages to convey Jesus’ own ecstatic union with God, “entering, entered, everywhere at once.”

Day’s best poems, and there are many, focus on emotion and embodiment. Readers will either love or hate the few poems that stray into other territory, such as equating Jesus with Mohammad and Buddha. I personally enjoyed the poem where Jesus and Krishna “meet as bridegrooms long promised to each other.” I look forward to his next project, which will blend homoerotic and interfaith themes.

Since Day writes so well about men, perhaps it is inevitable that some of his poems about women are less satisfying. I do object to his repeated and distracting use of “man” to refer to all people.

I read “Conjuring Jesus” at bedtime, a few poems per night. They sweetly opened my heart before I closed my eyes for a good night’s sleep. It’s also suitable to read “Conjuring Jesus” right alongside the Bible, thanks to a list of Biblical references for each poem at the end of the book.

Day writes of a Jesus who offers “the pleasures of sliding into our own promised land -- this delicious, indiscriminate view of heaven.” I recommend that you taste heaven now by reading “Conjuring Jesus.”
Click here to read the poem “Better Not to Marry” from the new book.

Related links:
Brian Day: Homoerotic interfaith poetry book explores “lust for the holy”
(Jesus in Love review of Brian Day's 2013 book "The Daring of Paradise")

“Conjuring Jesus”
By Brian Day
Guernica Editions
ISBN: 1550712748
Paperback, $13, 96 pages


eric said...

Another interesting investigation looms! Based on your article, Kitt, I've ordered the book... do you get a cut for sales? Just kidding.

Of course, I'm probably going to get in trouble for buying this book. As I tell others about the last fascinating book I read (Jesus In Love) I find I am now being labelled by my friends as somewhat obsessed by sex. Go figure.

Anyhow, Kitt, thanks for spotlighting this work. I am looking forward to reading his poetry!

Terence Weldon said...

Sounds good, Kitt. To speak frankly, I find the discussions on "Was Jesus gay?" a little tiresome and pointless, as they cannot be answered, at least not in any modern sense of "gay".

But I am quite certain that he was "queer",in the sense of a sexual non-conformist (just look at his friends), and have no troule with teh idea that he, and David before him, were bisexual. After all, it's only in pretty modern times that we have drawn this clear distinction between people who are exclusively (or nearly so) one or the other.

eric said...

I suppose there are some who might like to make that assertion... that Jesus was gay. That has never been my interest in writings like this, whether Brian's poetry or Kitt's novel. He may have been. He may have been super hetero. He may have been bi. He might have even been the asexual portrayed in the 4 gospels. It really doesn't matter to me.

I would find as much interest in reading books and/or poetry that portrays him as a sexually active straight or as a transgendered (of either "persuasion") as I do him as a gay man.

To me what is of interest in these writings is any honest attempt to portray him... or her... from a perspective that I've not yet experienced. I personally think that in exploring Jesus from many differing perspectives helps me to round out my understanding of the mythos behind the historical figure.

Trudie said...

The genius of your novels, Kitt, is that they emphasize over and over again that a truly human Jesus must indeed have experienced the full spectrum of erotic possibilities. A divine Jesus, however, had to adhere to the premise that God does not overpower the human will. You made it plain, and it is high time we learned, that where there is an imbalance of power, whether the coercion is physical or psychological, the definition is RAPE. If we are ever to reach our full potential as lovers both in body and spirit, we need to get over the notion that it is EVER okay for an imbalance of power to exist.

One idea upon which I feel the need to challenge the notion of a "gay" Jesus (as opposed to the omnisexual you portrayed in the novels) is that it perpetuates the masculine mystique. In some aspects of gay behavior, I still see far too much of two things: ridicule of the feminine, and celebration of impersonal sex. I can't attribute such attitudes to the reality of God made Human.

Trudie said...

Whoever Sveta is, whose comment is on the blog homepage -- one more revisiting of the absurd misinterpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story really ought NOT to be printed! If Jesus himself is not taken to be the authority on what the "sin of Sodom" really was, why should we pay attention to anyone else's ravings?

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks for all the comments! I caught the flu and am still recovering. I plan to reply to your comments in more detail when I am feeling well again.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Eric, I’m glad that you ordered the book. I predict that you will enjoy it a lot. Actually I may have over-emphasized the erotic aspect of Brian Day’s poetry book. All the poems are sensuous (like all good poems), but there are many not directly related to sex. I focused on the more erotic and queer poems because that is the focus here at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Terrence, thanks for your support. I never seem to tire of the gay Jesus theme, and that is one of the main topics of my blog and website JesusInLove.org. It’s our “claim to fame” on Google searches. I agree that Jesus was more likely queer/bisexual than exclusively gay. But then I think again and must say: Christ is beyond all our categories.

Eric, you wrote that Jesus may have been “the asexual portrayed in the 4 gospels.” Hmm… you might want to reread the gospels with the assumption that he was indeed sexual. Some of the asexuality is in the eye of the beholder -- that is, in the interpretations imposed by the sex-negative church hierarchy. Thank you for voicing your interest in “the mythos behind the historical figure.” That fascinates me as well.

Trudie, as always you are fantastic at summarizing the meanings of my “Jesus in Love” novels! I share your reservations about a “gay Jesus” if it means enshrining the dehumanizing aspects of today’s gay culture. You named it well: ridicule of the feminine, and celebration of impersonal sex.

And thanks, Trudie, for replying to the hateful comment by Sveta. I will copy your comment so it appears near her original comment, which is on the post about the year’s top stories. All of us GLBT-positive Christian bloggers seem to struggle with how to handle such comments. Delete them? It’s certainly tempting to just delete them. But then it masks the reality of the hate. Reply? Maybe that gives them more attention than they deserve. Stop allowing any comments? I know one who went that sad route. PJ has been a model for me of how to reply with love at other blogs. I will try to follow her approach, which is really the approach of Jesus: “Love your enemies.”

eric said...

Perhaps I should readdress my "asexual" comment. Yes, of course, it is our own perceptions that impose upon Jesus as portrayed in the four gospels, an asexuality. And that is really what I meant to say. I guess I was assuming or presuming or something! :D

As to the degree or quantity of erotica in the poetry... really, seriously, I am NOT a sex fiend! Material such as this, the poetry in the book, don't need to be loaded with erotica to interest me!

As you say, good poetry almost always is sensuous, and that is good enough for me!

eric said...

Oh, darn. Hit the Publish button too soon.

Regarding the comment left by Sveta, I'm beginning to be quite taken with Bishop Spong's approach. He has stated he refuses to acknowledge those who can't move beyond a thoughtless, unthinking rote recital of fundamentalist scripture quoting.

Anyone truly interested in growing in their faith has access to, and an OBLIGATION to delve into valid scholarship, and hence there's no point in sinking to their level to rehash over and over the reasons why their reasoning is wrong.

In other words, perhaps it's best to just ignore. Don't delete, just ignore.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Eric, thanks for the clarification about asexuality.

I read your recommendation to ignore Sveta’s comment (about the sin of Sodom) right after I wrote a detailed reply to it! I agree that it’s pointless to debate somebody with a closed mind, and I do ignore the many emails that come to me with similar messages misusing the Bible to condemn homosexuality.

HOWEVER, a blog is not a one-on-one interaction. Many people are reading it without ever commenting, and these posts will remain available in cyberspace for a long time to come. So I believe it is worthwhile stating the GLBT-affirming scholarship on the Bible yet again, for the sake of those silent observers.