[note: this Booktryst essay has been excerpted for clarity of topic.]
A Checklist of Matrix Press (London 1961-4)
by Alastair Johnston
Tom Raworth started Matrix Press in 1961. His first book was a tiny edition of poems by Pete Brown. He then issued three numbers of a magazine called Outburst. One, in collaboration with the Finnish poet Anselm Hollo and the American Gregory Corso was Outburst: The Minicab War, a humorous salvo in the class war. Outburst became part of a network of avant-garde writers and aired the trans-Atlantic voices of Creeley, Dorn, Levertov, Fee Dawson, and Olson for the first time in Britain.
In an interview with Andy Spragg, Raworth explained his reason for starting his own press:
TR: I was following threads of people I liked in the Allen anthology [The New American Poetry, edited by Don Allen, Grove Press, 1960]… Dorn, O’Hara, Creeley, Ginsberg and so on… hard to do then in London (though Better Books and Zwemmers in Charing Cross Road were occasional sources) and I got used to having to write to the US for books. It crossed my mind that if I liked this stuff there might be a few others who would too. Around then, late 1959 early 1960, my father-in-law gave us a delayed wedding present of £100. I can’t remember how I’d got interested in letterpress printing: it might be genetic… years later I discovered my father had wanted to be a printer, and that an ancestor, Ruth Raworth, had printed one of Milton’s early books in the 17th C. Anyway, I got a small Adana press ?rst and then a larger treadle press. Offset printing was slowly taking over and letterpress equipment and type was not too expensive then. By late 1960/early 1961 I was in correspondence with Dorn, Creeley and others in the US and had met Anselm Hollo, Michael Horovitz, Pete Brown and others here. I printed the ?rst small booklet (a couple of tiny poems by Pete Brown) on the Adana. I was working then in the Euston Road, at Burroughs Wellcome, the manufacturing pharmacists, and a photographer friend there, Steve Fletcher, had a brother who was an engraver and shared a workshop just off Oxford Street with a letterpress printer. They let me move the treadle press there so they could use it for small jobs and in return I could have access whenever I wanted. I’d met, and become good friends with, David Ball and Piero Heliczer (also a letterpress printer with his Dead Language in Paris). So I did small books of Dorn, Ball and Heliczer. And two and a half issues of the magazine Outburst. I had to set two pages at a time (only enough type for that) on the ?oor at night after work, carry it into town the next day, print the pages on the press with whatever colour ink was in use, go home, sort the type back into the case and start again.
1. Brown, Pete. SAMPLE PACK
London: Matrix Press, 1961
According to Raworth, about 6 copies were printed. The poems were collected in Let Em Roll Kafka, Brown’s book from Fulcrum Press (London, 1969). Best-known today as the lyricist for the rock band Cream, Pete Brown was Britain’s first performance poet who earned his living giving readings. He was the first reader at the Morden Tower in Newcastle, one of the most important poetry venues in England in the 60s.
“When John Lennon was still in art college Pete was turning on Liverpool with his synthesis of Beat poetry, Bop jazz, and British humour.” — Stuart Montgomery
Handset by Raworth in Gill Sans, Perpetua, Times Bold, Ultra Bodoni. Printed by Richard Moore and Sons. Cover photo (& 2 more inside) by Steve Fletcher.
Contributors include Anselm Hollo, Tram Combs, Robert Creeley, Fielding Dawson, Denise Levertov, Ed Dorn, Christopher Logue, Gary Snyder, Charles Olson, Michael Horovitz, Piero Heliczer, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Pete Brown, Gregory Corso, and others.
The advertisements for other little magazines, like Migrant, Yugen and New Departures, show how closely networked the avant-garde was in the 1960s. Gael Turnbull (1928-2004) was a key figure in the literary small press movement. A Scottish doctor he started Migrant Press in 1957 and continued operating it (with a mimeograph machine) after he moved to Ventura, California. He published many of the same poets as Raworth, including Dorn, Hollo and Ian Hamilton Finlay, whose The Dancers Inherit the Party is reviewed in this issue of Outburst.
White or blue wrappers, each page in a different color of ink. Cover photo by Steve Fletcher.
According to Raworth: “This issue was done with the hope that it might give a benevolent lift to the satirists of the Establishment, who want very much to destroy a possibly REAL revolution by making entertainment of it, and England’s future darker — The Minicab War is the Synthesis of Class War.”
Note: In June 1961 Michael Gotla of Welbeck launched a fleet of 400 minicabs on the streets of London, that carried advertising and undercut the well-established black cabs. Soon things turned nasty with hundreds of bogus phone calls to the minicab companies ordering cabs, black taxis hemming in the smaller vehicles, even vandalism as the situation escalated. In an editorial in August, under the headline “What the Public Wants,” The Times wrote: “It is fairly obvious that for many people in London finding a taxi has become too chancy and paying for it too stiff.” Minicab War contains spurious interviews with T. S. Eliot, John Betjeman, (Prime Minister) Harold MacMillan, George Barker, Bertrand Russell, Martin Bormann, & various cabbies. The perpetrators were Tom Raworth (O’Moore), Gregory Corso (De la Rue) & Anselm Hollo (Sykes). Martin Bormann was Hitler’s personal secretary. It was believed he had escaped Germany after the War and fled to South America so he remained alive in British popular culture, resurfacing on the beach in Brazil with Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs in the Sex Pistols’ movie The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (dir: Julian Temple, 1980).
Some pages printed in colored ink.
Contributors include Douglas Woolf, Paul Blackburn, Leroi Jones, Fielding Dawson, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Larry Eigner, Ruth Weiss, Ed Dorn, David Meltzer, Alan Sillitoe, Carol Bergé, Piero Heliczer, Paul Klee (translated by Anselm Hollo), Pentti Saarikoski (translated by Anselm Hollo), Philip Whalen, and others.
Cover photo by Ph Mechanicus; the image is reused from the last page of Outburst, No. 2.
According to Raworth: “Piero was living with us; he and I printed in on my treadle press which was off Oxford Street in Richard Moore’s print-shop…”
According to Alastair Johnston: “Ambitious design using the gutter as a focal point. Each page has a black bar printed in the gutter which then continues across the fold. Large condensed Gill Sans headers make striking compositions. The text is in Perpetua with Times Bold. One leaf is printed on lavender paper.”
Set in Linotype Times, printed on Brookleigh Bond wove paper; price 3 shillings.
Colophon: This book has been set in Times Roman type. The two drawings are by Ken Lansdowne. Nelson is by Gregory Corso. A photograph of the cover illustration was supplied by Steve Fletcher. All blocks were made by Barry Hall. 350 copies were printed. Designed and printed by Tom Raworth
AJ: History by Anselm seems like the transitional book from matrix to goliard, since barry made the blocks. i guess you met him at this point and decided to collaborate from then on? it looks like a really light impression, or else some of it is offset, and it says typeset and printed by you, so what press were you using?
TR: It was done on my treadle press, the Adana, smaller than the later Goliard press one, which was stored at the print shop of Richard Moore, three floors up off Oxford Street where the deal was that he could use it for small jobs (his main press was a large Heidelberg). That came about because one of the other two craftsmen in the shop, the engraver (there was also a diestamper and process engraver) was the brother of my friend Steve Fletcher a photographer, who took the photo on the front of the second issue of Outburst.
Drawing by Barry Hall
From the Colophon: This book is set in Times Roman. There are 350 copies Designed and printed by Tom Raworth, Flat 3, Stanley House, Finchley Rd, London NW11 20.3.64
According to Johnston: Dorn visited England to teach at the University of Essex. He and Raworth became lifelong friends and collaborated later at Zephyrus Image, when both were living in San Francisco in the mid to late 70s.
8. Ball, David.TWO POEMS
London: Matrix Press, August 1964
Drawing by Gene Mahon. This book is set in Baskerville and Times Roman (cover title in Verona).