Bob Cobbing (1920 – 2002): a poet, painter and musician; an activist for Poetry and Poets; a maker of poems that challenge some ideas of what Poetry is.
There are those who say that he was an artist of the greatest importance. It may be too early to say whether or not that is true; but it is not the most important issue.
He was, beyond doubt, a major force both locally, in London and UK, and upon the international community of poets interested in extending what could be done with “the poem” into the sonic; the visual; and, centrally, the performed.
He made significant poetry from, in part, the unremarked, the overheard, the fragmentary. See his books such as Sound Poems (1964), Kurrirrurriri (1967), Sonic Icons (1970), The Five Vowels (1974), Processual (mid 80s), Domestic Ambient Noise (1994-2000), Sign Writing (2000), Members only (2000) and with our tongue our drils and quadras (2001).
He was a master of bringing the potential out of his fellows and of confronting the mediocre and self-obsessed. He ran a publishing house, Writers Forum, based largely on office copying machines, which, over half a century, produced over a thousand publications which were examples in themselves of book art.
This exhibition looks at some aspects of Bob Cobbing – including a sample of his early sound work, a look at the period in the 1980s when he switched from ink duplicator to photocopier as general purpose too, and an examination of some of his last works, when he was still experimenting.
There are some examples from a long life of campaigning – for the recognition of the poet as a professional figure, for the need for a National Poetry Centre, for the interests of Little Presses.
Some Variations on a Theme of Bob is curated Lawrence Upton, AHRC Research Fellow at Goldsmiths. Upton worked with Cobbing in a variety of capacities over many years.
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