This poem is occasional enough to perhaps benefit from a little bit of context, of the kind John didn’t especially like. In 1981 my partner Trish Davies and I moved to Blackheath, in the bushfire-prone Blue Mountains. At the time John’s parents — Len, a retired meteorologist, and Phyllis — also lived in Blackheath. Len was a keen golfer.
The poem and accompanying clipping came in two heavy cellophane sleeves, stapled together to form a double spread, or cottage industry looking mini-chapbook. It’s all Forbes-like enough to unleash lashings of nostalgia. I have no idea where the clipping came from, or when it was published. For all I know it might have come from an old magazine — something tells me unjustifiably it was Pol — removed from a doctor’s waiting room. The poem, typed on quarto (not A4), has two additional lines whited out: ‘& as my mother will tell you / Faith moves mountains’.
John had a mind full of nuggets of information and at one stage he earned pin money by writing questions for pub trivia nights. But he wasn’t always interested in putting poems in contexts. I know this because of his supreme indifference when I told him Frank O’Hara’s reference to the Iroquois in ‘Naphtha’ was to the fact Iroquois were employed in the construction of the great skyscrapers because they were known for not having a fear of heights. It obviously wasn’t a matter of indifference to O’Hara, but John seemed to believe the image was self-sustaining once in the poem. ‘A poem needs content like a fish needs a bicycle,’ I said to him. ‘Exactly!’ he boomed back.
– Carl Harrison-Ford
A detailed biography of John Forbes together with a selection of his poems can be found at the Australian Poetry Library http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/forbes-john.
Two poems by John appeared in P76 Issue 1 in 1982 – ‘Pacific’ https://p76issue1.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/john-forbes-pacific/and ‘Baby’ https://p76issue1.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/john-forbes-baby/
Carl Harrison-Ford is an editor and reviewer and, long ago, was an editor of New Poetry.
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