I don’t suppose the sagacious Carl Jung ever tripped the light fantastic of Soho. But if the contra-Freudian devotee of the Triple Goddess had lurked in present-day environs of Lexington Street, he might have skryed her incarnation in the mistresses of its triangle of literate clubs: the Academy, Trouble and the Society. I doubt that Mandana Ruane, Joy Lo Dico and Babette Kulik would like to be identifed strictly as the Hera, Athena and Aphrodite of the district, so let’s agree that each partakes of the tri-partite deity in differing phases. All are goddesses in what they offer us mere mortals plying our odysseys through the mean streets, searching for some cove to wash up in lest the songs of Sirens lure us onto the rocks or the charms of some Circe metamorphose us into pigs.
Moving among novelists, politicos, journalists, diarists, feminists, post-feminists, secret masculinists and glorious would-bes, the seeker in quest of a bohemian shore may hear the sounds of his secret Lorelei best once he has supped with Mandana, been stimulated by Joy and arrives at Babette‘s. Her cadre of young centaurs and nymphs serve delectable cocktails and radiate love for the forlorn as readily as the famed. The Society Club might almost have for its motto Dylan’s ‚‘She knows there’s no success like failure/And that failure’s no success at all.‘ Indeed, it may be the message of its first publication, memorializing a year of Poetry Nights in which no Name is included but every inclusion has the freshness and lived quality of genuine inspiration. Wonderful woodcuts by barman Tom illustrate it. They are so good that you might think them real motive for the slim vol’s existence.
Handsomely framed, they gaze down from the walls over Babette’s bookshelves, blessing the revels. Buy them now while they’re cheap, for their unfamed creator may shortlly be one of the Club’s shooting stars. Thus we come to the secret lurking around Babette‘s banquettes, where the unknown and unhyped are quietly gestating into the famed of the future. On poetry nights the youngest test their words and their sounds, while the elder who‘ve been at it for arduous decades may find an audience new and renewing. All proceeds under the benign eye and blithe spirit of this goddess, whose faith in the risk she is taking – the unrehearsed dream she pursues – is in itself amply inspiring to other stray argonauts who are blown through her door by Soho‘s winds foul or fair.
We start a new year now. On the last poetry night of the old, two tables competed in praising a muse – Adam at one end his Sylvia, Helen and Bobby and Mike at the other their Charlotte. Will got his voice finally with a stanza of Byron, while Kate added ‘She Walks in Beauty‘ and Joachim evaded promoting his book on early cartoons of Hitler by reciting ‘ The Sick Rose‘ by William Blake. Original work came from Leon, and Katey Miller displayed her genius for song at piano. As the evening ended, Babette retired to a banquette to listen to Tom, so much more than a barman, perform ‘ The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‘. Fierce acclaim. Then George, our events man, enthused us with a vigorous ‘Amsterdam‘. Not a bad evening when you consider that many favourites had already fled to L.A. or elsewhere for Christmas. I trust they had fun there, but I’d bet that they spent more than a mauvaisquartre d‘heure longing to get back to this magic corner of Soho where the goddesses reign.