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Thom Gunn's New Jerusalem

Thom Gunn's New Jerusalem

(p.241) Thom Gunn's New Jerusalem
At the Barriers
Tom Sleigh
University of Chicago Press

Gunn speaks of the different varieties of New Jerusalem, the political and pharmaceutical kinds, and tells us how “I’ve visited most of them,” but that the only one he would care to return to is “the sexual New Jerusalem,” because it “was by far the greatest fun.” That sex and drugs go together should be no surprise to anyone, and in Thom Gunn's poems they become dual aspects of eros: on the one hand, drugs and sex can open us up to vistas of human freedoms and discoveries; and on the other, they can lead to darker recognitions about the world and ourselves. Gunn's poems explore both aspects in a way that is compassionate, nuanced, and wide-ranging in scope. Whatever one makes of his death, Gunn was a true servant of eros. And in keeping with that devotion, his New Jerusalem was an open one in its generous conviction that the ecstatic could become a communal property, open to anyone, an apocalyptic city of carnal fulfillment and desire, in which his work will forever be one of the cornerstones.

Keywords:   eros, New Jerusalem, sex, drugs, Thom Gunn

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