The Bardo Matrix Press was founded in Kathmandu in the early 1970s by original Velvet Underground drummer, artist, and poet Angus MacLise and poet, photographer, and publisher Ira Cohen as a publishing outgrowth of the Colorado artists’ collective of the same name. MacLise and Cohen commenced to issue pamphlets, booklets, posters, books, and broadsides by not only themselves and their fellow travellers, but also by some of the most important names of post-war literature: Paul Bowles, Gregory Corso, Diane Di Prima, and Charles Henri Ford were among the chosen.
The publications were printed in editions of anywhere from a couple of dozen to a few hundred, usually utilizing fine printing techniques such as wood blocks, letterpress, special inks, and handmade paper. But this was not based on traditional thoughts on fine printing, but rather on the opportunity to create something cheap and beautiful. There was a built-in audience for these publications on “Freak Street” in Kathmandu, where people in the circle of Bardo Matrix operated a small bookshop which did decent business selling wood-block printed headshop posters alongside poetry broadsides, these publications, as well as second-hand English language paperback books.
After the 1979 death of Angus MacLise, the activity of the Bardo Matrix Press quietly faded out. Ira Cohen returned to New York City where he was a highly visible member of the poetic demimonde until his passing in 2011, shortly after he had helped stage an exhibition on the life and work of Angus MacLise.
Bardo Matrix Checklist:
Granary Books – Dana Young Archive
Granary Books – Ira Cohen: The Bardo Matrix, Gnaoua, and The Great Society
Granary Books – Petra Vogt Archive
University of Delaware – Bardo Matrix Press