Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Checklist of Matrix Press (London 1961-4)

by Alastair Johnston

Tom Raworth Printing Bibliography Part I

Two hundred years ago when people were reading Shenstone, Bloomfield, Cowper and Collins (I am sure you know their works by heart), Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads to great public indifference.

Tom Raworth is known (in literary circles) as the pre-eminent English poet writing today. If you've never heard of him, that is the fate of artists who are ahead of their time. Raworth and his wife Valarie live on the south coast of England. He writes and publishes his work from small presses and sometimes slightly larger presses put out compilations of his writing (Collected Poems, Carcanet Press, 2003). He has also written a prose work, Serial Biography (Fulcrum Press, 1969), and recorded an LP of his reading, Little Trace Remains of Emmett Miller (Stream Records, 1970). Carcanet has also issued CDs of two of his works: Ace (1974) and Writing (1982).

The purpose of this post is to document his early work as a printer and publisher, a little-known aspect of his career, but central to his own interests as an editor and author.

Raworth is of Irish descent (his middle name is Moore and Thomas Moore is one of Ireland's most beloved lyric poets), but he grew up in London and is every bit a Londoner. As a printer too he can claim a pedigree. There was a Ruth Raworth who printed Milton's poems. The widow of John Raworth, she printed and published in Paul's Wharf, in the Parish of St Bennet, London from 1643 until 1655, then remarried Thomas Newcomb. John Raworth and his father Robert Raworth were also printers and members of the Stationers' Company in the early seventeenth century. 

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. (The British satirical magazine Private Eye was launched in 1961.) 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 first 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 first 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 floor 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.


The first book of the press was Pete Brown Sample Pack. 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

Outburst 1 
"published in the basement of 167 Amhurst Road * London E 8" 2s 6d
8 x 5", 52 pp, plus wrappers, stapled. 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, "Six Poems of Tu Fu" by Chao Tze-Chiang, et al. 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. My copy has a blown-in newsprint ad for The Outsider published by Loujon Press in New Orleans.

Gregory Corso, Anselm Hollo, Tom Raworth
THE MINICAB WAR: the gotla world -- interview with minicab driver and cabbie
16 pp., unpaginated. 8.25 x 5".
Wrappers (white or blue wrappers). Staple bound, each page in a different color of ink.
Photo: Steve Fletcher. "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."
Signed: de la rue sykes o'moore

Notes: 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).

   It's hard to date this undated pamphlet from 60 years ago. A rare book dealer described it as the first work of the press. Raworth thought it was a sort of Outburst 2 and a half, but the current of events suggests the end of 1961 rather than 1963. Also Corso was in London then, as Raworth recalls: "As I remember it, Allen and Gregory were in London on their way from Tangier. I remember that because they asked me if I could get a Minox film developed privately for them, which I did via Steve Fletcher and the Wellcome Foundation photo lab... The film was those naked images of them all in Tangier which Allen thought would cause a scandal if Boots Photos did the job. I have somewhere a clear memory and a photo of Gregory outside our basement flat in Amhurst Road, Hackney....  And we were well out of there by 1965. So it is quite possible the 1961 date is accurate though it certainly was after Outburst 1.  Maybe winter 1961 as Peter Cook's The Establishment club opened in October that year and is referenced in the text.

 "I remember in one of those 10,000 word biographies for Gale Research I did mine by addresses lived at, so there are some parameters there. For Minicab War I remember Anselm Gregory and myself sitting around in Anselm and Josie's flat in Cornwall Gardens, which was also where we made some reel to reel tapes of poems and distorted music. Those are decomposing somewhere in our stored stuff."

Outburst 2 
8 x 5", unpaginated, 48 pp, plus wrappers, stapled. Some pages printed in colored ink.

Contributors include Douglas Woolf "Notes for an Autobituary," Paul Blackburn "Ritual IV," Leroi Jones (2 Poems), Fielding Dawson, Allen Ginsberg "To an Old Poet in Peru," Gregory Corso "Moroccan Writings," Larry Eigner (2 poems), Ruth Weiss (2 poems), Ed Dorn, David Meltzer "Heroes," Alan Sillitoe, Carol Bergé, Piero Heliczer, poems of Klee & Pentti Saarikoski translated by Anselm Hollo, "Irregular Ode" by Philip Whalen, "Four Poems of Tu Fu" by Chao Tze-Chiang et al. Artwork by Barry Hall, and photos by Irving Penn & Edward Steichen. Also contains 4 pp of book reviews and pointed commentary by Anselm Hollo.

Piero Heliczer

Brighton: Dead Language & London: Matrix Press

11 x 4.5", 20 pp. Second edition, stapled illustrated wrappers, cover photo by Ph Mechanicus, Amsterdam. The image is reused from the last page of Outburst 2. 2 shillings 6 pence or 50 cents.

Notes: & I DREAMT I SHOT ARROWS IN MY AMAZON BRA is "a poem in eleven takes". "An earlier edition was dittoed by Anselm Hollo... My earlier inspiration little frogs and clay dams in the sound of leaves theres no need to worry about fulfilling a sign as signs necessarily fulfull themselves just as every thing has a pot dimension ie that emittor sends pot signals to pot man it is not necessary to the manifestation whether the emittor is under the influence".-- Author

  "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..." --TR

Spread from Piero Heliczer's & I Dreamt I Shot Arrows in my Amazon Bra

   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.

Anselm Hollo
24 pp., 6 1/4 x 5 1/4"; stapled in card cover, in yellow printed wraps, with images on yellow paper bound in. 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

Note: 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.

   I must, if it says plates by Barry Hall, have known Barry and he did them at his work to save me money. If it doesn't specifically say that, then they were made commercially via Richard Moore. There were very few copies of History stapled and Anselm never includes it (I think) in bibliographies. Somewhere I have a box of pages and covers.

March 1964
Edward Dorn
From Gloucester Out
drawing by Barry Hall
12 pp., 8 3/4 x 6 1/2"

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

Spread from Ed Dorn's From Gloucester Out, with illustration by Barry Hall

Green wove paper, stapled in white wrappers, with Hall's image in black and gold on coated stock, printed over a brown tint. Asymmetric design with large margins and running heads set off to the left of the text block.

Notes: 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.

August 1964
David Ball
Two Poems
9 x 5 3/4", 8 pp.
Drawing by Gene Mahon
Blue paper, stapled into brown wrappers
This book is set in Baskerville and Times Roman (cover title in Verona). Matrix Press, 3 Stanley Hse., Finchley Rd., N.W. 11.

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