Follow by Email

Friday, February 05, 2016

Robert Sheppard: Far Language: Bob Cobbing: Sightings and Soundings

in honour of his 75th birthday

This page (written 1995) was read at the Bob Cobbing Symposium in May 2015 as part of my talk 'Bobliography' (see here), breaking off at the end of the page, and moving on to other writings on (and with ) Cobbing:

1          Two Lessons

I visited Bob Cobbing, and thus met my first poet, on November 3 1973.  I was still at school, keen to put on an exhibition of concrete poetry.  I recognised this as the wilder edge of the new British poetry I had discovered through Horovitz’ anthology Children of Albion and Bill Butler’s Brighton bookshop.  In the school library there was, unaccountably, Emmett Williams’ An Anthology of Concrete Poetry.  Bob was in it.

When I arrived at Randolph Avenue to collect some hansj√∂rg mayer posters, Bob was already talking to a student who was writing a thesis on language in visual art.  I listened as they talked and sounded some of the Shakespeare Kaku.  I remained mute, uncertain.  Bob played a tape of himself and Peter Finch performing e colony from the Five Vowels, a then incomplete project.  He showed us the work in progress.  I stayed for six hours literally learning the life of a poet.

Two lessons, one immediate, the other lasting:

  There was a world of poetry which did not hypostacise the Poem as a closed structure.  (I left burdened with booklets and off-prints from Cobbing’s own work and excerpts from Lee Harwood.)

  The importance of radical consistency for an artist: to refuse to mark out an aesthetic territory which is then colonised, but to move confidently on, to create structures, large and small, for continued experiment.


2          Selected Sightings and Jottings 1978 - 1994

Bob Cobbing, Bill Griffiths and Paul Burwell, May 10 1978: Public House Bookshop, Brighton.  ‘Two poets concerned with the discontinuity of language.  Yet even more concerned with the building up of the discontinuous, into new structures … the simplicity of Cobbing’s Alphabet of Fishes … it is what Cobbing does visually (typographically and otherwise) and vocally that gives a poem its complexity, its ‘art’ … bellowing like a walrus.’

King’s College, November 26 1981: ‘with Griffiths and Fencott.  He swigged from his own ‘secret supply’ and launched into an hour of completely new material’ to put a wedge into the bibliographic mentality that cannot distinguish between the ‘latest’ and the ‘last’.

Saturday, July 13 1985 (the rest of the world watching Live Aid):  Bob beneath a tree in Clerkenwell churchyard.  ‘SILLIWHIG’ he yelled, from the

The rest may be read

This is the last chapter of Far Language and the last to be posted or linked-to here.

Link now to the new 'Introduction' and links to the contents of the book here.

And here are the chapter links to the original publication.

The (original) 'Introduction': here.
'Reading Prynne and Others': here.
'Far Language' (MacSweeney) here.
'Irregular Actions' (Allen Fisher) here.
'Timeless Identities' (Roy Fisher) here.
'Utopia Revisited' (John Ash) here.
'Flashlight Propositions' (Robert Sheppard's 1987 poetics) here.
'Education of Desire' (pedadgogic poetics) here.
'Commitment to Openness' (Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Tom Raworth) here.
'Poetic Sequencing and the New: Twentieth Century Blues' (poetics) here.
'Buoyant Readings' (J.H. Prynne, Bruce Andrews, Ken Edwards, Aaron Williamson and Gilbert Adair) here.
'Collosal Fragments' (Adrian Clarke) here.
'Tune Me Gold' (Maggie O'Sullivan here.
'Linking the Unlinkable' (poetics of Twentieth Century Blues) here.
'Adhesive Hymns' (Ulli Freer) here.
'Bob Cobbing: Soundings and Sightings' here.