G L I M P S E by Jeremy Dean (1988)

This was a slim volume at 32 pages and my first published piece of creative work! It was printed in blood-rust-brown by Croak and Dagger Ink, London, in 1988, with the generous support of the Association of Little Presses. I remain very grateful to the late Bob Cobbing for his help and encouragement in getting this ready for print and also for inviting me along to read extracts before some of his own performances.

I can remember the first time I stood on stage in front of an audience to read some of the words that appeared in  G L I M P S E . It was at The Torriano, an independent ‘meeting house’ in London’s Kentish Town, already famous for being frequented by experimental (and not-so experimental) poets since the early 1980s. I was, understandably, very nervous. It is all very well to sit in your Blackpool bed-sit, drinking beers into the night whilst typing out highly personal, heartfelt, angsty poems. It is quite another thing to stand up before an audience of seasoned performance poets and speak those words out loud. My heart rate rocketed and my legs went wobbly. I became short of breath, but managed to get through it. The audience could not have been more supportive. After my turn, a fellow performer praised my confidence and said that the rhythm of syllables along with the shamanic movements were really interesting and made the recital seem almost ritualistic – and on some levels it certainly was. So, I had struggled to get my words out right and had kept moving to distract from my knocking knees and this had, luckily, been taken as some sort of meaningful interpretation.

Bob Cobbing performed some of his sound poems, read from patterns on the page rather than words, accompanied by a guitar, which if I recall correctly had no strings and was played by using different substances and textures rubbed over its soundbox. A completely unique and original performance, what Bob had become known for since the 1960s when he was credited for ‘inventing’ concrete poetry. Bob’s poems often managed to transcend the bondage of words yet remain potent and honest at their primal core.

I had worked with Bob Cobbing on a placement whilst I was at college and found him to be a hugely generous and positive fellow, a true creative with a love of life and server of the best baked potatoes I ever tasted…

G L I M P S E  is now long out of print… and I am quite glad about that! A good many of the poems are naïve and clumsy celebrations of bed-sit gloom. The aim was to lighten that gloom with a delicate, life-affirming beauty - I feel this was achieved to varying degrees. I was listening to a lot of word wielders who had really mastered the genre, Scott Walker, David McComb, Charles Bukowski… I soon grew out of poetry, after learning a lot from it. I still recommend any aspiring writer to write poems for themselves – it teaches economy of words and also the power of words to evoke moods and emotions beyond their literal meanings. Though, after a while you grow to realise that true poetry is rarely found in mere poems.

Images from Crying Sky (1986)
Images from Pinchbeck (1986)
One or two of the pieces from  G L I M P S E  still do impress me with their youthful energy and unpretentious honesty. LOVE-TO-FEAR (below) still reads well and has some power in its words and structure. Crying Sky and Pinchbeck are also both worthy of a little footnote as they formed the core scripts for two of the short films I produced as part of my BA degree portfolio. It was all so long ago, it seems like yesterday!

Pages from G L I M P S E  (C) 1988 Remy Dean
...well that's enough about me...

Some lovely pictures of Bob Cobbing being very alive can be seen here at radiOM.org... and if you register you can listen to some of his sound poems.

There is a fairly academic article about Cobbing (as PDF) here at the Birkbeck University site, with some examples of his print poems.

... and a tribute to Bob Cobbing by Peter Finch...

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