Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Bob Cobbing

Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) was a British sound, visual, concrete and performance poet who was a central figure in the British Poetry Revival.

Early life

Cobbing was born in Enfield and grew up within the Plymouth Brethren. He attended Enfield Grammar School and then trained as an accountant. He later went to Bognor Training College to become a teacher. During the Second World War, he was a conscientious objector.

Early Involvement with Poetry and Performance

His involvement with performance began with the Hendon Experimental Art Club and the Hendon-based magazine And in 1951. This led to his setting up Writers Forum, which began publishing in 1963. In 1964 he published ABC In Sound, a book that combined his interest in sound and concrete poetry in an exploration of the visual and auditory possibilities of the English alphabet. He left teaching around this time and managed Better Books on Charing Cross Road, London. This shop was the venue for a number of events and happenings associated with what Cobbing's friend Jeff Nuttall termed the Bomb Culture, the British version of the 1960s counterculture.

The 1970s

During the first half of the 1970s, Cobbing was able to use the facilities of the Poetry Society to produce Writers Forum books. In all, the press published over 1,000 titles between 1963 and 2002. As well as fostering the younger poets of the British Poetry Revival, Writers Forum also published works by John Cage, Allen Ginsberg and Ian Hamilton Finlay. Writers Forum also ran a regular Saturday afternoon writers' workshop at which poets read and discussed each other's work.

Cobbing also explored his interest in performance works for multiple voices and musical instruments in groups like Bird Yak and Konkrete Canticle, which included poets Paula Claire, Michael Chant and Bill Griffiths. He was also co-founder of the Association of Little Presses, an organisation that promoted the work of small publishers in Britain and Ireland.

Later Life and Work

Cobbing was a prolific writer and performer and continued to work right up to his death. He also used his teacher training to work on performances with school children. Much of his later work consists of visual texts and markings that were used as notations or, more strictly speaking, jumping off points for performance. He also worked on more directly collaborative works with other poets, such as the Domestic Ambient Noise project, a series of 300 booklets created with his friend and fellow Writers Forum editor Lawrence Upton. Since Cobbing's death, Upton has carried on the work of running Writers Forum.

External links