"I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand/Walkin' thru the streets of Soho in the rain."
Talking with Brian Cassidy about little mags, he made the comment that British mags are much like British food: bland. I had to agree. The food I enjoyed most in London was that with a little spice, a little international influence: Chinese and Indian.
It has always struck me as strange that a little magazine tradition that began with a day-glo blast screaming across the sky would prove to be so much like an overcast English Sunday morning going forward. I understand the style and appeal of Wimbledon whites but what people always talk about during the fortnight are those who inject a little color into centercourt.
So let's beat a Poor. Old. Tired. Horse here for a minute. The visual nature of My Own Mag is one more reason it is one of the major little mags in the British tradition. No other mag looked like it before it came out and it out punks the punk mags of the next decade in my opinion.
Further proof that British little mags lack spice and flavor is the attention lavished on Lee Harwood's Soho in Price and Miller. They seem to think Nick Tidnam's cover is the bomb: "an arresting white-on-black lino-cut of a cow skeleton." It is also one of the few magazines which merits an image reproduction. Where's the beef??
That said Price and Miller do the right thing in singling out Lee Harwood for attention in their essay on the 1960-1975 period. "From around 1963 to 1969, Harwood edited or co-edited several important little magazines, including Night Scene (1963?), Night Train (1964), Horde (1964), Soho (1964), and Tzarad (1965-1969).
Harwood is one of those poets who used the little magazine as a major part of his creative process. It will become clear in Mimeo Mimeo #7 that Lewis Warsh is another such poet. Bukowski was obviously another such poet. William Burroughs is that rare novelist who used the little magazine as a means to experiment with and distribute his work.
What makes Soho worthy of all the hype is a little bit of French cooking that makes its way into the land of Cornish pasties. Soho opens with Tzara's The Death of Guillame Apollinaire translated by Harwood. The magazine closes with a large section of contemporary French poetry in some cases translated and in others in the original French. According to Price and Miller, British little mags had no time for the Continent despite such affinities in the early Modernist mags.
Jean Fanchette is included in the French section which makes sense to me. Fanchette edited Two Cities in Paris in the early 1960s, which allowed British, American and French writers to meet and mingle within its pages. Fanchette and Two Cities published Minutes to Go (by Burroughs, Gysin, Beiles and Corso) with an assist by Gait Froge of the English Bookshop. Harwood draws on a similar concept to Two Cities in Soho.
Soho is not quite an exquisite filet of sole, but it is not just plain fish and chips either. A bit of haute cuisine presented in the fish and chip wrapping of mimeo, it suits my taste just fine, but if I want a true Naked Lunch I'll pull out my copies of My Own Mag, which with the Odour-ful edition, the cut-up edition and a host of other quirky details, are truly a feast for the senses.