Bob Cobbing 1950-1978: Performance, Poetry and the Institution
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Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) was a poet known for his performances and as an organiser of poetry events, as a participant in the British Poetry Revival, as a late-modernist and as a sound and concrete poet. This thesis seeks to reconfigure our view of Cobbing as a performer by considering his performances across a range of institutions to argue that this institutionalised nature was their defining aspect. It maps the transition from Cobbing’s defence of amateurism and localism in the 1950s to his self-definition as a professional poet in the mid 1960s and his attempt to professionalise poetry in the 1970s. This process was not uncontested: at each stage the idea of the poet and the reality of what it meant to live as a poet were at stake The first chapter considers Cobbing’s poems and visual artworks of the 1950s in the context of Hendon Arts Together, the suburban amateur arts organisation he ran for ten years, and it situates both in Britain’s postwar social and cultural welfare system. Chapter two analyses Cobbing’s transition from Finchley’s local art circles to his creative and organisational participation in London’s international counterculture, specifically the Destruction in Art Symposium (9-11 September 1966). Chapter three considers ABC in Sound in the context of the International Poetry Incarnation (11 June 1965) and analyses Cobbing’s emergence as a professional poet. Chapter four examines Cobbing’s tape-based poems of 1965-1970 and their associated visual scores in the context of audio technology, and the role they played in Cobbing’s professionalisation. The final chapter examines Cobbing’s performances at the Poetry Society (1968- 1978) in order to investigate the effects of subsidy and friendship on poetic performance.
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