Bob Cobbing

‘Bob Cobbing’
(unattributed photograph)


Bob Cobbing – Alphabet of the Fishes


“Both visual poetry and sound poetry incorporate elements of rhythm. One can move inwardly to a sound poem or interpret it in outward movement or dance. One can, by empathy, enter into the spatial rhythms of a visual poem, or can give it full muscular response. so both sound and visual poetry are steps into the arena. Visual poetry is the plan, sound poetry the impulse; visual poetry the score and sound poetry your actual music for dancing.”

“Leonardo da Vinci asked the poet to give him something he might see and touch and not just something he could hear. Sound poetry seems a to me to be achieving this aim. PARTLY it is a recapturing of a more primitive form of language, before communication by expressive sounds became stereotyped into words, when the voice was richer in vibrations, more mightily physical. The tape-recorder, by its ability to amplify and superimpose, and to slow down the vibrations, has enabled us to rediscover the possibilities of the human voice, until it becomes again something we can almost see and touch. Poetry has gone beyond the word, beyond the letter, both aurally and visually.”

“Sound poetry dances, tastes, has shape. MY USE of ‘vocal-microparticles’ as Henri Chopin calls the elements with which we now compose sound poetry, retains, indeed emphasises, the natural quality of the human voice, more perhaps than does Chopin’s poetry. But both he and I are attempting to use a new means of communication which I believe is an old method re-established, which is more natural more direct and more honest than, for example, the present day voice of politics and religion … Gone is the word as the word, though the word may still be used as sound or shape. Poetry now resides in other elements.”

Bob Cobbing – 1969 (From Sound Poetry: A Catalogue, edited by Steve McCaffery and bpNichol, Underwich Editions, Toronto, 1978)

Further resources
Ode To Gravity (Radio Show), a selection of Cobbing’s sound poems and an engaging interview recorded in Cobbing’s home with Charles Amirkhanian on the 20th September 1972 – here
You can keep updated with the work of the Writer’s Forum, run by Lawrence Upton (founded by Cobbing as a section of ‘Hatfield Arts Together’ in 1963) and their ongoing workshops at the Betsey Trotwood, on the WFUK website – here

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