Sunday, March 14, 2010

I've been enjoying the wit of John Forbes today ...

My heart has me under house arrest - slight exaggeration, but almost - so I've been watching The Sopranos episode after episode, and early in the morning and now in the evening reading John Forbes. I seem to think John would've like being on the bill with Tony Soprano ...

Right after John's death, his family and friends helped Brandl & Schlesinger publish one of the handsomest little volumes of Australian poetry ever, Damaged Glamour. It has everything going for it in book design - great cover, good paper - a kind of cream stock - and enough 'white space' to let the poems breath on the page. It is short at 60 printed pages, but as with John Forbes other collections, it is dripping with wit and erudition stated in a mix of popular culture diction and elevated thought.

Here's an example from that collection of John's hard-won unselfconscious style:


You meet your daemon &
respond with contempt

for all depth & poetry
driven by love and breath

self-conscious bitterness
is best, besides lust or a

detached disgust — as
long as there’s nothing

hysterical about it Art
& life both require this

but your attitude like
inspiration disappears,

leaves you ugly & stranded,
the moment you admire it

There is a wealth of material on and about John Forbes and his poetry at Jacket magazine,

It starts with this introduction:

Editor’s note: This issue of Jacket is dedicated to the memory of John Forbes, who died suddenly at his home in Melbourne on 23 January 1998. He was a subtle, ironic and brilliant poet, wholly dedicated to his art. In this issue: some poems by John, some photos, Gig Ryan’s eulogy, a review of his last book, and some poems by his friends. — J.T. (John Tranter, founder and long time original editor)[END]

I am amazed that it is twelve years since his death. If you don't know John Forbes poetry, order a book today - you will read it for years to come.

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