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"For Judas Iscariot in Heaven".

Review of Anthony Joyette's "For Judas Iscariot in Heaven" Anthony Joyette in his book of poems "For Judas Iscariot in Heaven" explores the concept of betrayal and the role it plays in relationships, and more profoundly our search for meaning of existence and a spiritualism that connects us to God. His God is a Christian God. His world is one of good and evil and he has been given a set of doctrinal truths by which he has tried to live. But as his search expands his experiences and intellectual awareness of his human existence (pain, death and guilt), his conscience re-evaluates these doctrinal truths in terms of his personal spirituality and salvation. Thus many of the poems allow us to listen to his voice as he reconstructs his understanding of life and suffering, friendships, loyalty, love, responsibility, accountability, and the nature of the search for self and a "will to meaning". In the introduction, he argues that in a world where there is prophesied destiny that blame cannot be assigned and punishment exacted of those that are commanded to carry out socially unaccepted tasks by God. Furthermore, in his poem Feminist discourse(the Eighties) he suggest that God is a not a vengeful God "It is man who is a bad God". So he argues that Judas Iscariot deserves redemption from the ecclesiastical curse of the damned ", that he should be or is in heaven because he did God's bidding. He betrayed Christ so that the prophesy of Christ's crucifixion could be fulfilled. And by Christ dying mankind is rescued from eternal damnation. In Joyette's view, Judas' kiss of betrayal buys him redemption. Joyette's poems suggest that life is a betrayal of man. Because in some sense the promises that it otters in youth are seldom ever realized for reasons outside man's control. Lovers and relationships whose presence and realities each day' were expected to lead to "new pleasures and strengths" soon "like herbicide ... bleeds doubts on embryos of new ideas, changing them from epigrams of pleasure to canned goods marked "best before tomorrow" " "In Love's Venomous Sting" he invokes the hopelessness and heinousness crimes of Mark Lepin at Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal December 1989 to confront us with the agony of a mother who must bear the pain of a child betrayed by destiny: "Should I cry and antagonize the Gods for drenching me with this sacrifice?". The poems portray a sort of inevitability about the uncertainty, disappointments and unfulfilled promises of life and relationships; and essentially love only seems to come to us when we can mute the distortions in the voice of the conscious self, and from the meaning we construct from the duality of good and evil(a sort of Miltonic view of the world).
 "From beds of our existence
 the seeds of love
 blossom another sacrifice
 for life".


Christian doctrine expects us to give up every thing and follow the truth. But the agony of denial of our life needs and the intensely personal and selfish nature of our spirituality create doubt and inhibits our will to surrender our self completely to the object of our love, We find it extremely difficult suspending our present needs no matter how much greater the rewards at eternity. The conscious state of being and elemental life needs require that thirty pieces of silver. But the pain of guilt and conflict are too much, so we cry out "let this cup pass." In the reality of our world "we cannot help witnessing a betrayal of some sort", says Joyette. Thus politicians caught in the cross roads of decisions become charlatans. Friends and families are torn apart "blinded by the transgressions of our ways"(House in the Village of Us All). Friends die and leave us only memories (Death of a Poem). The poet sees mankind held hostage in a "purgatory of man's inhumanity to man" and the uncertainty of life. He cries out from his Gethsemane
 Gloom drapes my dreams
 And darkness covers me
 In this sea of fear and disparity.
 And I wait for Persephone
 With a bitter taste of life.


He longs for a love beyond himself (Brother ... I feel your pain. I never stopped loving you.); a life with conscience not merely one imprisoned in itself; freedom from man-created hells, for forgiveness. He is searching for meaning and reunion with the soul. He longs for a home somewhere free from the contradictions of his real world home. But he is distressed by the perception that we are trapped, "fenced by guns and bullets, dreams, like debris fused against disquieting attitudes ..." However, from time to time there is hope when we chance upon Wisdom, the right "language of the heart", and "'dreams that sail the seas and fly the skies of our desires", when we can love selflessly, celebrate humanity as a manifestation of the human soul born of pain and sacrifice, forgive and be forgiven;
 Yesterday a wind of promise
 Brought the sent of you to me again.
 As I plucked the lotus buds
 Years of differences no longer
 Mark our time of life
 From the softness of her giving
 I touched the moon a few light years away.
 (Wind of Promise)


In "Reflection" the poet's voice declares his longing for eternal joy, He says "I imagine talking with you forever?"

The Book consists of highly personalized pieces based on the relationships and experiences of the poet in different situations. Essentially, the poet invites us to a discourse that is ongoing. He attempts to address the contradictions of man having free will in his choices between good and evil in a world where it seems that the existence of one is essential to that of the other. This is not a new theme in literature, but it is new experience to everyone of us that must make the journey through life. We may be delighted by the way the creative imagination of the poet stirs and enlightens our soul. However, in the end, our soul must awake and speak or rot in dark perdition. Even in the face of unalterable negative events we can choose to find a way to give meaning to our suffering. For example, Christ did not die for "nothing". Our redemption gives meaning to his suffering And for Joyette, notwithstanding that we are "off springs of Gods in a fragile state ever bleeding to survive", in a world "where images of hate and love spawn death and life ..." yet we are always thinking of "home in the world everywhere".

Poetic form and choice. The poet uses a wide variety of forms, metric lengths, number of stanza and number of lines--mixed iambic, dactyl, troche, and anapestic. It is free verse that takes full liberty with the forms. There is no pretence at rhyming. The form of each poem seems to be dictated by the passion and the spontaneity of the rhythm of the heart at the moment. There is an intimacy in the work that invites the reader to witness and experience the poet's imagination playing on the themes with which he reflects his new vision of the world, his new understanding of the past, his present and possible futures. Given his intention, as stated in the introduction to the work, I would have thought that he would have used a more non-traditional epic form. This would have allowed more appropriate poetic space for argument and consistency in the treatment of the main strands of thought that underlie this topic. But the poet decided not to give us a remake of Milton's "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained". So, I will accept that decision of his free choice. However, I do have some issues. In the absence of a consistent integrating theory, of the main theme, man in search of his ultimate soul, we must reflect on all the poems as a collective. The grouping of the poems does not seem to follow particular schema, except to say that the latter poems offer us more hope. In attempting to bring the deeper images of the poems into our consciousness, we find ourselves shifting back and forward through a number of philosophical positions and underlying arguments, and forms of expression: from the uninhibited choices of pure poetic imagination, to concepts of man in the world outside of Eden; to theories of man as a victim of his own drives; to Judeo-Christian views of the world and the redemption of man; to a reductionism view of man(Machine man); to a phenomenologisl view of man as a deciding being free to choose how to live, how to die, seeking meaning in life, and man as an existentialist responsible being. One can find pieces of these theories everywhere in the work. But what comprehensive theoretical framework guides the conscience in its bringing the images buried in the unconscious into conscious expression. The poet (Joyette) questions the validity of the logic of the Holy Bible, referring to it as a "book of eras", badly interpreted by its disciples throughout time. Which of the many forms of thinking and theories did the poet's conscience use to re-evaluate the doctrinal truths that he was fed in his youth. This is not discussed in the poets introduction to the work, where it would have been best placed. Nor can we discover a unifying analysis from the text of the poems. Given what we are lead to believe is being attempted in his introduction, I think this is important. However the poems do inspire thinking and reflection. The poet always returns from his moments of despair, from his existential vacuum, to buoy our spirit and give us hope. In "Eulogy(A Canadian chant)" he celebrates life and the experiment of Canadian nationhood as a search for unifying principles and a new type of humanity. Our spirits are excited by the touch of his spirit finding meaning and purpose in living in spite of the "inflictions of time", "the abnormalities of time", the lynching of time, "the smell of life and death beneath our temperate skies", the pain and guilt of betrayals. And we can say with him

"I celebrate our love that cries for the manifestation of a soul, that Struggles to express it beyond the inventions of little wars so easily crafted instead of an ambition to fill the verve of our social whole....

We are further induced to join the chorus of one humanity and chant:

"And as I dance your presence dances with me. My hopes and my dreams are part of your destiny, woven to the fibres of our nation's core."

Is Judas Iscariot in Heaven?
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Author:Bayne, Clarence S.
Publication:Kola
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2005
Words:1768
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