THE MATRIX by N. H. Pritchard
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About The Matrix:
Long out of print, Norman H. Pritchard’s masterwork presents a decade of poetic experimentation from 1960 to 1970. Inflected with—and perhaps an influence on—Black Arts, the precise architecture of Pritchard’s book (the poems and their design) stage an unexpected meeting of Concrete Poetry with Olson’s “open field” poetics and Cage’s chance operations. The seventy-one poems of Pritchard’s debut might be regarded, as Charles Bernstein has written, as “sound” poems tethered not only to the literature of the early Umbra group and the Black Arts Movement but also to jazz culture and urban life in New York. Drawing as much from the visual arts as from sound-based experimentation and music, Pritchard utilized the simple tools of spacing and typography to create syncopations, vibrations, and musical rhythms. What emerges is nothing less than a self-contained system of mimetic codes that challenge modernist modes of perception and representation. Formally innovative and anticipating what Michel Riffaterre would come to call the semiotics of “ungrammaticalities,” the book is a syntactical and visual experience in repetition, stutters, and structure.
This book is co-published with Primary Information, and is #35 in UDP’s Lost Literature series.
Here’s a truth to which the black experiment is especially foregiven: “words are ancillary to content.” The converse is also true, indicating mutual aid and mutual trouble. When words and content get together, there’s enough room in the vast, infinitesimal blur not in between them for poetry to make its dispersive, displacing way. Norman H. Pritchard loves that non-Euclidean neighborhood. He keeps bullet time there, after hours, in a club, which is an open cell, called The Matrix. Welcome to this “huge/entering” of concrete breath—unprecedented, unsurpassed. —Fred Moten
About the Author:
Norman Henry Pritchard was born in New York City in 1939. He studied art and art history at New York University and Columbia University. He belonged to the Umbra group (1962–65), a collective of young black writers that included Steve Cannon, Thomas C. Dent, David Henderson, Calvin Hernton, Ishmael Reed, and Lorenzo Thomas. He published two collections: The Matrix, Poems: 1960–1970 (1970) and Eecchhooeess (1971), and his poems appeared in Umbra, The East Village Other, and other magazines and were anthologized in The New Black Poetry (1969) and In a Time of Revolution: Poems from Our Third World (1969). He also recorded his work for the Folkways compilation New Jazz Poets (1967). Pritchard taught poetry at the New School for Social Research and was a poet-in-residence at Friends Seminary. He died in eastern Pennsylvania on February 8, 1996.