Among the different essays noted author and art critic Ewan Whyte offers us in his new book Desire Lines: Essays on Art, Poetry & Culture, to be released on November 17th, is one of a more personal note to the author about his time as part of the controversial religious cult Community of Jesus.

In Landscape from the Back of a Train Whyte describes in shocking detail, his childhood in an American/Canadian religious cult from ages 8-16, after his mother became a member. A long, intimate essay with never before told stories (and extensive interviews from former members) of his and others’ formative years in this bizarre environment with strong links rooted to a controversial sect in Germany, is sure to frighten and enlighten the reader with its stark depiction of life in a depraved religious sect.

Community of Jesus was founded by two self-styled holy women who called themselves Mother Cay and Mother Judy in the 1960s and was based in Massachusetts but with a branch in Brockville, Ontario. They controlled the Canadian boarding school Grenville Christian College from 1973-1997, which he was forced to attend for three years after years of forced visits to the Community of Jesus in Massachusetts. One of the two leader’s sons said:

“Both Mothers from Germany spent months at Rock Harbor (The Community of Jesus) in the late 1960s training Cay and Judy in “Light Sessions,” or “monastic discipline.” I think Cay and Judy brutalized it to an extent they didn’t practice in Germany and then (Headmaster) Farnsworth took it to a whole new level at Grenville. The institutional foundations were, for sure, rooted in the practices of that order in Germany. And to an extent, in the Third Reich.”

In 2016, the news show W5 aired a documentary on the sect:

“Here cultural critic and essayist Ewan Whyte uses his uncanny and rare capacity to slip inside works of art and figure out what makes them tick. In Desire Lines: Essays on Art, Poetry & Culture, a sweeping variety of essays on imagery, language and creativity, Whyte offers up maximum insight with a minimum of attitude. A classicist by interest, and both a poet and translator, Whyte is a relaxed, lucid, knowledgeable critic of poetry as well as visual art. Desire Lines culminates with his personal essay about childhood in a religious cult. His sympathy for those trapped within sometimes sadistic demands (and for art made under severe cultural restrictions) underpins his generous critical views. Whyte triumphed by embracing the imagination—and this splendid collection is a triumph for the arts as a humane and gifted writer understands them. “- Molly Peacock, author of Paradise, Piece by Piece

Other essays in the book cover the works of Ai Weiwei, Anne Carson, Gunter von Hagens, Viktor Mitic and others.

Reviews on Ewan Whyte’s book of poetry: Entrainment (2015)

“What beautiful poems. I deeply consider him one of the best
Toronto-based new poets.”
-Goran Simic, PEN Freedom to Write Award winner

“(Of his poem “On a Night Bus”) This is what happens in a night bus,
travelling between the cities: ‘running shadows of memory, falling
stars of sorrow, whispers of presence, poetry.”
-Tomasz Rozycki, Griffin Poetry Prize Finalist

“A truly impressive debut.” – James Arthur, poet; Discovery/The Nation Award winner

Ewan Whyte is a writer and translator. He has written for the Globe & Mail and The Literary Review of Canada. He is the author of Entrainment, a book of poetry and a translation, Catullus: Lyric, Rude and Erotic.

Please email for more info on his new book Desire Lines: Essays on Art, Poetry & Culture (Guernica Editions 216 pp. ISBN: 9781771831802).

Comments are closed.