Tag Archives: Matrix Press

Matrix Press

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[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

2. OUTBURST, No. 1, edited by Tom Raworth
London: Matrix Press, 1961

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.

London: Matrix Press, 1961

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).

4. OUTBURST, No. 2 , edited by Tom Raworth
London: Matrix Press, 1963

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.

Brighton: Dead Language & London: Matrix Press

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.”

6. Hollo, Anselm. HISTORY
London: Matrix Press, 1963

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.

London: Matrix Press, March 1964

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).

Piero Heliczer – Books and Broadsides

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This index includes books, chapbooks, booklets and broadsides

First edition:
(White Plains): privately published, (c. 1957)
Hand-sewn sheets tipped into printed wrappers, 12 pages, 24 numbered copies issued hors commerce.  Illustrated by Heliczer.

Contents: “The Tomb of Henry James Diferencia 1” [play] [collected in The Plays of Piero Heliczer, Volume I]

According to BeatBooks catalog #86, prints the first part of Heliczer’s absurdist play. The play’s second part appeared in Accent (Spring 1958), and the complete (?) four-part play was published by the Dead Language Press in 1971. This first part was privately printed “as a distraction” by Heliczer in White Plains, New York, “for personal use of its author”, and does not bear the Dead Language (or any) imprint. It was included in the Dead Language catalogue for 1959 (item #49), though only a tiny number of copies were sold or, more likely, given away.

2. Heliczer, Piero. GIRL BODY
First edition:
Paris: The Dead Language, 1958
First edition, broadside, 5″ x 24″ folded twice to 5″ x 6″, white ink letterpress printed on black paper.

Contents: “Girl Body” [poem]

According to BeatBooks catalog #86, the subject of this sensual and concupiscent poem is Olivia de Haulleville, Heliczer’s girlfriend, whose breath he compares to a turtle’s and “her sex” to “a turtle shell” (Piero owned a pet turtle which he led on a leash and is said to have once deposited it at the Louvre’s cloakroom during a visit).

[scans of this item at Brown University Library digital repository]

3. Heliczer, Piero. IN WHICH THE POET WALKS…
First edition:
Paris: Dead Language, 1958
Broadside, 6″ x 11″ folded twice to 6″ x 3.75″, letterpress printed on cream laid paper.

Contents: “In Which The Poet Walks from 945 Park Avenue to His Home at 420 West 46th Street out of Which He is to be Evacuated as a Squatter and Finally to Battery Park at Noon” [poem]

First edition:
Paris: Dead Language Press, 1959
Saddle-stapled in printed wrappers, 6.5″ x 6.75″, 24 pages, letterpress printed. Avant-propos by Robert Graves, original photo of Heliczer by Harold Chapman mounted to verso of last leaf.

Contents: “Fuga XIII” [poem], “Ornithology For Love Cyclops” [poem], “England” [poem], “English Girls” [poem], “Paris A Scenario For A Silent Movie” [poem], “America” [poem]

According to BeatBooks catalog #86, in his avant-Propos, Robert Graves likens Heliczer’s work to “a translation of poems from a foreign language, which I would like to understand” (“an indication”, Anselm Hollo later noted, “of the limited range of the older poet’s ear”). The title is credited to Siggy Wessberg, Olivia de Haulleville’s half brother.

5. Heliczer, Piero. THE LION KEEPER
First edition:
Paris: The Dead Language, 1960
Postcard, 4″ x 6″., letterpress printed.

Contents: “The Lion Keeper”.

From the verso: “Lavender this color blends the most harmoniously with the environment and therefore has a restorative effect on nerve tissue”.

First edition, thus:
Brighton: Dead Language & London: Matrix Press, 1961
Saddle-stapled in illustrated wrappers, 4.5″ x 11″, 20 pages, letterpress printed. Cover photo by Ph Mechanicus.

Contents: “& I Dreamt I Shot Arrows in My Amazon Bra” [poem]

From Heliczer’s notes to this edition: “An earlier edition was dittoed by Anselm Hollo… My earlier inspiration little frogs and clay dams in the sound of leaves there’s no need to worry about fulfilling a sign as signs necessarily fulfill themselves just as every thing has a pot dimension ie that emitter sends pot signals to pot man it is not necessary to the manifestation whether the emitter is under the influence.”

According to BeatBooks catalog #86, Heliczer’s 1963 Dead Language catalog prints the publication year as 1961, a year before he moved to New York; elsewhere Tom Raworth mistakenly gives the year as 1963, stating that “Piero was living with us; he and I printed it on my treadle press which was off Oxford Street in Richard Moore’s print-shop…”. Heliczer’s notebook dates the sale and distribution of copies in early December 1961, and records that he paid Tom Raworth £1.00 on the ninth of that month.

a. First edition, pink cover:
New York: Dead Language, (1962)
Saddle-stapled in printed and illustrated wrappers, 7″ x 7″, 28 pages, letterpress printed. Afterword by Anselm Hollo.

b. First edition, orange cover:
New York: Dead Language, (1962)
Saddle-stapled in printed and illustrated wrappers, 7″ x 7″, 28 pages, letterpress printed. Afterword by Anselm Hollo.

Contents: “Poem Number One” [poem], “Mantis” [poem], “Wm Byrd” [poem], “Bird Burgeoning Sky” [poem], “Buckingham Palace” [poem], “Carillon Booty” [poem]

Note: “Poem Number One” appeared in La Lune en Rodage 1, (Basel); “Mantis” appeared in a French version in Sens Plastique, (Paris); “Wm Byrd” appeared in New Departures 2/3, (Oxford & London); “Buckingham Palace” appeared in Outburst 2, (London).

8. Heliczer, Piero. THE SOAP OPERA
First edition:
London, Trigram Press, 1967
Hardcover in cloth-bound boards with illustrated dust jacket, 9″ x 10″, 36 pages, 500 copies (36 numbered and signed), letterpress printed. Illustrations by Paul Vaughan, Andy Warhol, Jack Smith, Wallace Berman.

Contents: “A Purchase in The White Botanica” [poem], “The Death Of Stephen Ward” [poem], “Wyatt: Elegy & Diferencias” [poem], “Victorian Era” [poem], “The Passion Of Johann Sebastian Bach” [poem], “The Autumn Feast” [poem]

Notes: “The Autumn Feast” was made into a movie, Jeffrey Keen did the photography and cutting, Angus Maclise and Tony Conrad made the soundtrack.

9. Heliczer, Piero. THE PLAYS OF PIERO HELICZER, Volume I
First edition:
Préaux: The Dead Language, 1971
Side-stapled in printed and illustrated cover, 8.5″ x 11″,  30 pages, 100 copies, mimeograph printed. Cover photo by Avril Hodges.

Contents: “The Tomb of Henry James, Diferencias I-IV” [play]

10. Heliczer, Piero. THE PLAYS OF PIERO HELICZER, Volume II
First edition:
Préaux: The Dead Language, 1971
Side-stapled in printed and illustrated cover, 8.5″ x 11″, 30 pages, 100 copies, mimeograph printed. Cover photo by Avril Hodges.

Contents: “Wyatt” [play], “The Pecan Tree” [play], “Chaconne in G Minor” [play]

11. Heliczer, Piero. THE PLAYS OF PIERO HELICZER, Volume III
First edition:
Préaux: The Dead Language, 1971
Side-stapled in printed and illustrated cover, 8.5″ x 11″, 100 copies, 26 pages, mimeograph printed.

Contents: “Harunobu” [play], “The Blue Centaur” [play], “Bessie Smith” [play]

12. Heliczer, Piero. THE HANDSOME POLICEMAN *
First edition:
New York City : Moon Dragon Press, 1976
Broadside, 11″ x 17″.

Contents: “The Handsome Policeman” [poem]

First edition:
Heerlen, Holland: Uitgeverij 261, 1981
Perfect-bound in printed wrappers, 5.25″ x 8.25″, 48 pages, printed in English and Dutch. Published as part of The Amsterdam School/Poetry Series.

Contents: “In Coena Domini” [poem], “Leadbelly (A D 1882 To 1949)” [poem], “Chinatown” [poem], “None of This is Going to Be Really There” [poem], “And I Am Not Afraid Of The Dark” [poem], “Abdication Of The Throne Of Hell” [poem]

14. Heliczer, Piero. SUNDAYS CHILD
First edition:
(New York): (The Rare Book Room), (1987)
Side-stapled in printed wrappers, 8.5″x 11″, 17 pages, 10 copies, xerox printed.

According to BeatBooks catalog #86, a promotional flyer produced by The Rare Book Room and mailed by Heliczer to Bill Levy in late January 1988, states that the booklet was published in an edition of “Less than 10 copies”, and describes it as “An autobiographical sketch of some 17 pages by a former child star of Italy (‘Il Piccolo Pucci’), one of the earliest underground film-makers here (he also acted in Jack Smith’s notorious ‘Flaming Creatures’, some of Warhol’s earliest films), compulsive talker, womanizer – and, despite some occasionally wandering neurons – a fine poet. Mint. Signed by the author. 15.00”.

Forming only the first part of an unfinished life story, the narrative ends with the young Piero still in Italy at the end of World War II, prior to his emigration to America. Heliczer is referred to in the third person throughout, and it seems plausible that the text may have been based on conversations with the owner of The Rare Book Room, Richard Rogers. The Rare Book Room was a small bookstore on Greenwich Avenue in New York owned by Roger and Irvyne Richards. Roger was a friend to most of the Beat writers, notably Gregory Corso, as well as a regular at Warhol’s Factory.

15. Heliczer, Piero. LEADBELLY *
First edition:
n.p.: n.p., (c. 1988)

Contents: “Leadbelly” [play]

16. Heliczer, Piero. THE PERFECT DETECTIVE *
First edition:
Amsterdam: Soyo Productions, 1989
Saddle-stapled in printed wrappers, 5.5″ x 8.5″, 40 pages.

Contents: “Border Boredom” [prose], “America” [prose], “The Perfect Detective” [prose]

17. Heliczer, Piero. AND I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE DARK
ph_afraidFirst edition:
Bayonne, N.J. : Beehive Press, 1991
Comb-bound in printed cover, 5.75″ x 8.5″, 7 leaves printed recto only. Includes a flyer for Heliczer’s reading at Saint Marks bound in with a brief biography.

Contents: “And I Am Not Afraid of The Dark” [poem]

First edition:
New York: Granary Books, 2001
Perfect-bound in printed and illustrated wrappers, 150 pages. Edited by Gerard Malanga and Anselm Hollo, with a foreword by Hollo and a 19-page biographical interview with Heliczer’s half-sister, Marisabena Russo, conducted by Malanga.

[link to Granary Books, Reviews & Press, for this title.]

[*not in archive]