Celebrating Pride Month: Mouth of the Dragon

The first (May 1974) and second-to-last (May 1980) issue of Mouth of the Dragon.

In celebration of Pride Month, Special Collections has been highlighting materials in our collections that are by or related to members of the LGBT community. For our last post this month, we will be looking at the poetry journal Mouth of the Dragon. Washington University Libraries has all 18 issues of this journal, spanning from 1974 to 1980.

About Mouth of the Dragon

Mouth of the Dragon came out in May of 1974 and advertised itself as “A Poetry Journal of Male Love.” Edited by Andrew Bifrost, it contained original poems from over a dozen authors, most of whom lived in the New York City area. The magazine focused almost exclusively on the gay male experience and was originally only distributed locally. The inside cover of the first issue reads, “There are no subscriptions to MOUTH OF THE DRAGON. It will be distributed through a network of local area people.” By the end of its publication, however, it was being distributed more widely and subscriptions were available for $13 for 5 issues. According to Somewhere Books, a blog of LGBTQ books and history, the journal was also distributed for free in prisons through The Prison Project. Below is a poem written by an inmate of Oregon State Prison from the first issue of the journal.

Two pages from the first issue of Mouth of the Dragon (May 1974) featuring three poems from an Oregon State Prison inmate, Ronald Endersby.

Notable Contributors

One notable contributor to Mouth of the Dragon was Ian Young, a British-Canadian poet and literary critic and a leader in the Canadian gay community. While he was still in college in 1969, Young had founded the University of Toronto Homophile Association, the first gay organization at a Canadian University.  A year later, Young started Canada’s first gay literary publishing house, Catalyst. He also edited The Male Muse (1973), an early and influential anthology of gay poetry, and published several volumes of his own poetry.

Two pages of the first issue of Mouth of the Dragon (May 1974) featuring a poem by Ian Young and the beginning of a poem (“A Journey to the East”) by Emilio Cubeiro.

Another notable contributor to Mouth of the Dragon was Emilio Cubeiro, a poet/playwright/performer who had a number of small acting roles, including a part in Lydia Lunch’s Fingered. He also appeared in Silence=Death, a 1990 documentary about the AIDS crisis.  Cubeiro performed his poetry, often accompanied by music, at a number of New York venues in the 1970s, including the famous CBGB club.

Emilio Cubeiro’s “A Journey to the East,” continued. From the first issue of Mouth of the Dragon (May 1974).

The last page of Emilio Cubeiro’s “Journey to the East,” followed by a short poem by the journal’s editor. From the first issue of Mouth of the Dragon (May 1974).

Mouth of the Dragon is an important, but often overlooked, publication in gay literary history. If you are interested in checking out some of the issues for yourself, please make an appointment with the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections.

Sources:

Aldrich, Robert, and Garry Wotherspoon. Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History Vol. 2: From World War II to the Present Day. Routledge, 2005.

Pierson, Jason. “Book Feature: Mouth of the Dragon Poetry Journal.” Somwhere Books Blog, https://somewherebooks.wordpress.com/

About the author

Rose is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. When she is not working on her dissertation on post-1945 asylum novels or blogging about the amazing materials in Special Collections, she fills much of her time reading, writing, gardening, and wrestling.