The article introduces the paper archive of Bob Cobbing (1920-2002) at the British Library, and contextualizes his influential contribution to British poetry – as an avant-garde performance poet, printer and publisher – over the course of more than fifty years. The archive evidences the continuity between Cobbing’s formative experience as a youth leader in the Wesley Guild, his work in the 1950s as a teacher and organizer of local community arts programmes in the London boroughs of Hendon and Finchley, and his subsequent participation in the counter-culture of the 1960s. The origins of Cobbing’s radical practice are discussed, from the sonorous rhythms of Vachel Lindsay and American Beat poetry to the aesthetics of Futurism and Dada. Uniting personal material with documentation of Cobbing’s publishing, performance and promotional activities, the archive is a rich and coherent record of a strand of British poetry that has not always been generally visible but continues to flourish.
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