Welcome to Remembering John Stahle

John Stahle (d. April, 2010) was a writer, graphic designer and the editor of the journal Ganymede, a journal devoted to gay men’s literature based in New York City.  John helped promote the work of many up-and-coming queer writers both in the pages of his journal and through his knowledge of self-publishing and design.

We made this site to remember all John did for our community.  If you have stories, memories, or other tributes you’d like to post here, just let us know.  You can send them to us and we’ll post them, or you can add them as comments.

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6 Responses to Welcome to Remembering John Stahle

  1. As posted on my website :

    Where to begin? The first time I met John? That was last June after he accepted some of my work for Ganymede. He kindly invited me to accompany him and Ryan Doyle May to the Noguchi museum and Socrates Sculpture Garden here in my neighborhood in Astoria/LIC. I remember the sculpture garden was like a swamp from all that rain we had last spring into the summer, and the thunderstorm we got caught in on our way to a diner afterward. John was full of stories and art world gossip, and full of plans for Ganymede and genuinely baffled over why more journals and writers didn’t go the POD route given the low overhead involved. I saw John next at the July Wilde Boys gathering I hosted at my place where I remember him quickly wanting to accept, on the spot, a poem my friend Saeed had been working on and read for us. I think he’s been to many of the Wilde Boys salons since and has published many of the poets who frequent those gatherings in the pages of Ganymede, along with other fabulous up-and-coming queer writers here in NYC and around the country, such as my friend RJ Gibson, John’s “big discovery” who he bumped up from issue 6 to issue 5, John was so excited about his work and the buzz around RJ.

    But then the last time I saw John? That was in February when he invited me to dinner with Lawrence Schimel and Eric Norris at a diner in Chelsea. I remember him being very generous this way, introducing writers to each other, creating connections and community. He introduced me to Jee Leong Koh’s work, amongst others. And the last time I heard from John? Twice in March, the first an invite to attend the Whitney Biennial with him and Eric, which I had to decline as my boyfriend was in town and we had plans. The second was an inquiry over a good chapbook review service or an award program for chapbooks since Lambda Lit doesn’t have a chapbook category. And then evidently sometime in April he died of a heart attack alone in his apartment.

    I heard the news this past week from a mutual family friend, Robert C. Neville (“Bob”), Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Theology at BU. Bob officiated at my sister’s wedding two years ago and had taught my brother-in-law, Ben, at BU. He taught John, too, many years earlier at Fordham, and John had worked on art projects with Bob’s wife Beth over the years. They last saw him in December. Bob also taught John’s niece, Rachel, a conservative Christian minister in NJ, and he has put me in touch with her. It appears Rachel is in charge of organizing a memorial service in NYC for John at some point, maybe in the fall since many people are mobile during the summer. I’ve reached out to Rachel but haven’t heard anything yet. I was going to wait to post this until I heard more from the family, but figured I’d post what I know and update more later.

    And what will become of Ganymede? As I mentioned, John was very generous promoting up-and-coming writers alongside the established through the journal and its companion anthologies, so it will be sad to see that end. As far as I know, he was a one-man operation. In this electronic, online age, what becomes of blog spaces and facebook profiles and POD presses when their owners/founders die? I’m sitting here going through my gmail folder for John, looking at the pdfs from the issues he sent me, in particular that “rants” one from the first issue, about MoMA and Almodóvar (two loves of mine), written under one of his pen names, Julian Grenfell (an interesting choice, as the real Julian Grenfell was a British soldier and poet of WWI).

    As I hear more news, I will post updates, especially if I hear anything more about a memorial. I’m sure many of us would like to pay our respects.

  2. Bryan Borland says:

    I made the quick judgment that I did not like John Stahle after our first exchange of emails.

    I’d submitted several poems to Ganymede, and subsequent to my submission, I’d received word that one of those poems had been accepted elsewhere. I wrote John to say that he could still consider the poem, but would he please acknowledge the other publication should he publish that particular piece? John’s response was terse. “I promote poets. I do not promote other journals.”

    I shot back an email to him, “Just trying to do the right thing.” I silently wrote off my chances of inclusion in Ganymede and went on my way. It was with surprise that John contacted me a few days later, asking to use the very poem that had been accepted elsewhere.

    He liked pretty boys. That’s no secret. Good-looking, model boys, angel boys who wore sex on their lips, beneath their eyes, in the locks of hair that always held the illusion of youth when the color was sucked from their photographs and their faces became black and white.

    He made me look 21. I was approaching 30.

    In between my poem’s appearance in Ganymede #6 and the anthology Ganymede Poets, One, my poems were frequently accepted for publication in various journals. I also put together a manuscript, and was working on it one Sunday afternoon when John sent out an email promoting his design services.

    My ears perked up.

    “Publish yourself,” he said, and “you live forever. You never go out of print, at least not unless you pull the plug.”

    He talked to me of the benefits of doing such a thing. “Include the content you want. Select the cover art. Market it the way you’d like it to be marketed.” I listened, and when the manuscript was finished, I hired John to put together what would become my first book, My Life as Adam, and what is, I think, the last project John created for another person.

    We butted heads. He wanted to put page numbers on the right side of every page; I couldn’t understand that concept. He didn’t understand why I wanted to list the book with Amazon and Barnes and Noble because they take more of the profit. I explained to him that I had an ego, and I wanted my book listed at those places. He understood the word ego. I think I even coaxed him to smile with that one.

    Ultimately, like any good businessman, John gave me everything I wanted with My Life as Adam. As was the case with everything John did, the result of his labor was a beautiful product, one that I’m proud carries the tag, “designed by John Stahle Graphic Design.”

    In February, John urged me to travel to New York City for participation in Perry Brass’s Rainbow Book Fair. He advised, “It would be a very valuable launching pad in a top market.” I hoped he’d be in attendance. “I’ll be working the main room for new writers—for a while,” he said. “We should schedule din-din at some point before you leave.”

    We didn’t get the chance to sit down for din-din. John didn’t make the book fair. He’d been sick with what he called “a nasty flu” in January and fell ill again the weekend of the fair, which was March 27. I last heard from him shortly after the fair when he sent an email apologizing for not meeting me. I told him it just added to his legend.

    I’ll never meet John face to face, but he’ll live as a character in my mind forever. I think John would like that… that I picture him as a Truman Capote-type. That I imagine his NYC apartment littered with photographs of hot, young writers, former loves that have become gods of his short stories and poetry. That, to me, he was electrically eccentric.

    John had a reputation. God, what a boring life otherwise! John lived a thousand lives. John lived through all of us he published, all of us he discovered, all of us he championed. John Stahle was a good man. He was a gentle teacher. He was a friend to the gay community.

    I’m not sure we truly realize what we’ve lost yet. Oh, but we will realize it soon enough.

  3. “Hi, Philip, it’s John. Give me a call and we’ll dish!”

    Those words, often left on my voice messages, would always make me laugh. John’s “dish” was some of the most intelligent, biting, funny, and informed conversation one could have. And to dish with him was always a delight. For John, the art of conversation was a no-holds-barred sparring party. And you mostly had to sit and enjoy it (which one invariably did) because with John, you could seldom get a word in edgewise. The stories, the news flashes, the “did you hear?!” were always enthralling. John loved to get the dirt and he could spot bullshit a mile away.

    I first met John at my initial Lavendar Salon Book Club meeting, at the Moondance Diner on W. 23rd St. I got there early and here was this rotund, completely engaging man in glasses, peering straight at me, who sized me up fast and said, “Sit right here.” All I remember then, is that I never heard such wonderful, interesting conversation about books as came forth from him. He had just begun Ganymede, and issue number 2 was soon in the works. “Why don’t you write something for me? I could use a film reviewer. Let’s have dinner at your place. Where do you live?”
    “Riverdale.”
    “Oh, it’s nice up there.”

    John arrived for dinner and I was once again plied with trajectories of dish and directives. Mal mots, in the best way. But John was completely serious about his new publication, and he amazed me with how he was bringing it together, gathering artists, writers, and poets in a whirlwind of damned hard work. As the evening ended, after much laughter and conversation, he said, “So, get to work. I’ll send you a list of films to review.” Over the next period of approximately six weeks, John and I battled out the first “Indie Eye” reviews. It was tough, and sometimes disheartening, but he pulled the best out of you because he would only stand for the best in Ganymede. John knew how to support you however, when the going got rough. “You’re doing great, keep at it.” And I am very proud to have first reached publication with John. Ganymede will never be matched, nor will John ever be replaced. What he accomplished with Ganymede, and the speed with which it was deservedly acclaimed will not be seen again in the gay publishing arena. Oh sure, there will be imitations — that’s the in-sincerest form of flattery, John would scream. But who will put the attention and deep love into it that John did? Who will present, support and publicize his artists and writers on such a scale that John did? And was there ever a more BEAUTIFUL publication?

    John Stahle was a writer, photographer, poet, and designer of extraordinary vision. What we pay tribute to is all that he put into his work. His mind was a kaleidescope, and his intelligence a tall ship always going towards another fantastic shore. “What’s over there?” John, I wish we could dish one more time. Below is John at his consummate, and biting best:

    “Being gay is a sin of the eye, as that cunt Saint Augustine would have said. I know gay writers who feel that gay literary journals should be chaste, high-minded, Protestant, with no visuals, certainly no male-form photography. Bullshit. Those journals are all gone now, and good riddance. If a journal is gay, it can’t be boring, and that requires visuals as well as writing. All first-rate work, in any medium, starts conversing when juxtaposed. In my layouts, I love to make that happen.”
    [Read the full interview with John at:
    http://saeedjones.wordpress.com/2009/08/01/interview-john-stahle-on-ganymede-gay-poetry/

  4. Uli Minoggio says:

    When I met John at an art opening in 2004 I was quite impressed by his eloquence. He had a lot to say and made sure he said it. He also knew a lot, about people, places and things – and about the arts, literature, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s masseurs and Tome Cruise’s first jobs. Stuff you did not need to know about, but that you definitely wanted to know about.
    He instantly befriended us, a small group of forever “emerging” artists, who never learned how to promote ourselves, and he just loved to promote anything that he found interesting. He took us under his wing. He became our mentor and “art pimp” as he liked to call himself. He found venues, small galleries, hair salons, non-for-profit places, restaurants, “emerging” gallerists – anything to submit our artwork to and to show the results of our creative endeavors.
    And, of course, we frequently hung out together, to “dish”, to dine, to go to our own or other people’s openings, to check out galleries, to visit museums and anything that was fun to do in New York City. More than often, he was the one to initiate our get-togethers, coming up with ideas of where to go, and he was nudging us to submit our work and get it shown.
    He would go around to places, galleries and organizations and introduce himself as independent curator or agent, always with his typical smile on his face.
    He was extremely resourceful in finding artists’ workshops and lectures for us to attend for free, in a city where almost everything was at charge. John would even find us job opportunities and ideas how to survive.
    He was generously helping us in all possible ways, and here I am, not being able to thank him anymore, and feeling bad that we had lost touch.
    That period of our little clique had lasted for about three years. Somehow we all went our own ways, and John got busy with his literary projects.
    Good bye, dear art pimp!

  5. RJ Gibson says:

    I’m usually not a woulda-coulda-shoulda kind of guy. I don’t find any profit in agonizing over what might have been. I am, usually, a pretty reliable pack-rat; I hold on to things. Earlier this year I went on a purge, cleaning up my clutter, online and in real life. One casualty of that spree was the emails I’d traded with John since just about this time last year, starting with my submission of poems to Ganymede. I wish now that I’d kept all of them.

    I don’t remember how I heard about Ganymede—it had to be somewhere online, but I can’t remember whose blog it was on. I checked out the Ganymede site, liked the sample layouts I saw and put together a three-poem packet. I balked a bit at sending a headshot, but simply thought “screw it” and sent it all off. Within a couple of hours I’d gotten a reply from John acknowledging the submission, noting that it would be a few days before he could get back to me about it. It was only a couple of hours later that he was emailing again, accepting the poems. It was the quickest acceptance of my life. It was undoubtedly the most enthusiastic.

    He loved the poems, was baldly effusive about them. Reading the email was overwhelming. He wanted to know if I had a book yet (I didn’t) or a chapbook (I did, but it was a contest finalist, so I wasn’t sure if or when it would be freed up.) He offered me his services for design and help with self-publication if I ever wanted it. I told him I’d keep it in mind. I didn’t have any projects underway at the time that were near that stage, but that I’d let any friends who might be interested know. I think I spent more time figuring out how to respond to him than I did putting together the initial submission. But I was good to my word. I mentioned Ganymede and John’s generosity as often as I could after that, especially “newer” poets, hoping they would find the same sort of advocacy and enthusiasm from John that I did. I know some of them submitted and were accepted. I hope John displayed the same love and attention to their poems. I don’t doubt for a second that he did.

    Within 24 hours of that acceptance he sent me the PDF proofs he’d done up of the poems. The proofs were beautiful—I was amazed that he’d done them so quickly. He was again effusive, calling me a “discovery.” It was an enthusiasm that I didn’t know what to do with. Pretty much every email exchange I had with John was like that. I don’t buy into false modesty and have a (more than) healthy ego, but for a long while I didn’t know how to respond to John’s fervor. Of course we want someone to love our poems, but actually being faced with someone loving them was rather like standing naked in a hurricane. There was nothing to do but let it buffet around, squint my eyes, and accept it. I always tried to thank him and let him know how glad I was that he “got it.” Even at the beginning of this year I still wasn’t able to accept his enthusiasm without blushing. John posted a comment on Facebook with a wish for 2010 that I found simultaneously heartening, dear, and totally over the top.

    All of this says more about me perhaps than it does about John. But our responses to loss and grief often do. I’ve thought intensely the last few days about what John’s loss means. I feel I’ve lost an ideal reader, and I’ll probably have John in mind time to time as I write from now on. But I think we all lost an ideal reader, an enthusiast and advocate who wanted to make things happen. More importantly, he did make things happen.

    I had been meaning to email him this spring, to touch base with him about a chapbook project I had in mind, to see if he would be interested. I wanted to tell him I was planning a trip to New York later in the year. I wanted to see if maybe we could hit a museum, meet for drinks, or have dinner. But work, school, a thousand other things got in the way and I put it off. Despite myself, I’ve spent the last few days in woulda-coulda-shoulda mode.

    I never had any sense of John as a full person, only as this almost elemental force that would pop up in my inbox. But I admire that full-throatedness of his. I admire his vision of a magazine that would encapsulate and challenge the entire continuum of gay art, his use of every Ganymede issue as a way of laying out the past, present, and future in lavish high style.

    Dear John, Dear Reader—thank you. Really, you were fabulous.

  6. Eric Norris says:

    I met John Stahle through my friend Thomas, an occasional blog reader, who encouraged me send Ganymede some of my poems.

    I really hadn’t thought about publishing for a long time, being more or less happy to work though the poetic problems life presented to me in private. People write for all sorts of reasons. I guess, for a while, it was a way of keeping myself amused in between trips to the grocery store, the gym, Manhunt, and goofing off.

    John replied about 25 minutes after I emailed him a selection of 4 poems for Ganymede. He accepted 2, and he arranged to meet me for dinner to discuss them. We met the following week in the lobby at Equinox on 33rd Street. It was July. He suggested a small diner on 3rd Avenue. He led the way. By the time he had finished his cheeseburger and adopted my orphaned coleslaw, I think we were friends.

    Besides being such a careful custodian of coleslaw, John allowed me to take myself more seriously as a writer—to think more carefully about what I was saying: to imagine an audience. It makes a difference knowing there is someone out there listening, reading, perhaps even understanding (or hoping to understand) what you have to say.

    During the year I knew John, I wrote about 90 poems. 66 will published this winter, as a short story in The Raintown Review. I am not sure where these ideas came from. I am not sure I care. I am happy to accept the windfall. I can say this for certain though: I would not have tried these things without John’s encouragement.

    Through John, I was able to meet many excellent writers—Matthew Hittinger—Jee Leong Koh—Ryan Doyle May—Lawrence Schimel—R. Nemo Hill—to name just a few I met in person. I met many more in the pages of Ganymede. I think my imagination is a much richer, more productive place after these encounters.

    The last time I saw John, I met him for dinner at his apartment in the Upper West Side. I brought a pint of scotch in a paper bag and he provided a wine glass. The glass was already standing on his cutting board when I arrived.

    I hung my jacket on the handlebars of the old bicycle leaning against the wall, opposite his kitchen. He was listening to Schubert. We sat down in the living room. He drank iced tea. We talked about Nabokov’s gay bother who perished in a concentration camp. (I didn’t know that.) We giggled at the goofy escort ads on Facebook. (I knew about those.)

    John was in an expansive mood, full of commentary, and bursting with ambitions. He reminded me of a queer Samuel Johnson. He showed me the layouts for the upcoming issues of Ganymede. He showed me the images he had selected to illustrate my first book of poems.

    We went for Thai food across the street. Over some colorful tofu dish, he talked about the deceased writers he hoped to resurrect in the pages of Ganymede. I was a little tipsy, so I just listened.

    When we returned to his place, we watched “The Importance of Being Earnest” from 1952. (Not perfect, but not bad.)

    I plucked my coat from the longsuffering handlebars of that bike about 11:00pm. I smoothed down the nipple the force of gravity had created in the fabric. I embraced him and said, “Goodbye.”

    A few weeks later, I found myself in Tokyo, addressing postcards to friends. I went to find John’s zip code on Facebook. Instead of finding it, I learned that a very good friend had died.

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