As difficult as it was to write yesterday’s APPF poem, today’s was just that easy.
The postcard was St. Sebastian by Nicolas Régnier (1590-1667), and naturally, I was curious why this picture was included in the Hidden Love book. So I checked him out, and found a very interesting article in The Independent that details St. Sebastian’s long-standing position as a Gay Icon.
From its inclusion in the book, I thought it just had to do with his being young and beautiful and practically naked (and pierced by phallic arrows no less), but the real way his image became homoeroticized was a bit more involved. Because the Romans prayed to St. Sebastian during the Black Plague since he was known to have survived the arrow attack, and the epidemic miraculously ended, he became ultra popular as a saint, favorited by everyone.
Even though the historical St. Sebastian was in his 40s, wrinkled and grizzly, before he was actually clubbed to death, even in Middle Ages, peopled idolized beauty. They wanted their saints to be gorgeous and blooming even as they’re dying, and artists couldn’t agree more. So, he got a Cosmo makeover, and he became an ever youthful pin-up boy of martyrdom.
So the poem I wrote, simply titled “St. Sebastian,” is basically a lecherous sonnet about ogling him. I really like it. Is it a great poem? Probably not. But there’s something titillating about eroticizing a saint and lusting after him (even if I’m not the first to do it).
Of course, not everyone would have been a fan of sexualizing the sacred. The Church recognized the problem of the lone nude figure in art during the as Shiela Barker discusses in her essay “The Making of a Plague Saint” in Piety and Plague: from Byzantium to the Baroque, which explains why St. Irene begins to appear in paintings with St. Sebastian. The Church was afraid young women would experience lustful urges–which Irene’s appearance would theoretically quell.
Of course, if you have a perverse mind like I sometimes do, what’s to prevent you from thinking about corrupting both of them? But I digress. The point is, the poem is written and dropped in the mail, and I am extremely happy about it.