Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Der Kreis - Sam Steward and Saintly Sonnets

Here's a peculiar thing. This is a 16 page booklet stapled into paper covers with a photo similar to this one also on the inside back cover: Tarry A While and other stories. In fact, four other short stories, all fairly well written, all rather chaste and all with gay themes. The colophon on the back page answers some but not all the questions I have. These stories, it says, were first published in Der Kreis, or The Circle, a trilingual gay magazine which was also "the oldest homophile magazine in existence, now in its 30th year". That's as close as we get to a date but since Der Kreis appears to have had two starts under two different names this could be either 1962 or 1972 (I incline towards the latter - if only because of the cover price).

The best part of all though is a poem on the inside front cover. It is given as by 'Steward'. This, I must assume was Sam(uel Morris) Steward, also known as the writer of gay erotica Phil Andros, a remarkable character and well worth investigating further. He is known to have drawn art for Der Kreis. I think it's a great sonnet and there is a small pencil drawing reproduced above it signed PHIL. Could it be that both the image and the sonnet are by Steward? I can't say for sure: I've yet to find artwork by Steward signed PHIL, more normally he signed, I believe, as Thor.

Sonnet to the Making of a Saint

Sleep well, my lad. Be sure no terrors lie
Within this cup of night, save only those
Your bright inventive mind creates as foe;
Go virgin to your bed; with wary eye
Distrust my gesture, and suspect my sigh.
You see in all my honest words a pose,
My friendship but a mask for lust - who knows?
You may be more aware of truth than I.

Pull tight the cover to your virtuous cheek,
Lie straight and true, with thighs so closely pressed,
Look upward, to a heaven far from Greek,
And cross your hands across your untouched chest.
So let your marble rot and turn to dust,
And let the mourners worship if they must.

UPDATE: Thanks to one of my regular readers for pointing out this excellent review of Justin Spring's new book Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade.

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