Forbes, Peter 1947–
Forbes, Peter 1947–
PERSONAL: Born January 11, 1947, in Burton, England; son of Leonard and Winifred Forbes; divorced; children: Neil, Ian. Ethnicity: "English." Education: University of Bristol, graduated, 1967. Politics: "Left of center." Hobbies and other interests: Guitar music.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Poet. Queen Mary University of London, London, England, Royal Literary Fund fellow, 2004–. Affiliated with a British publisher of science textbooks during the 1980s.
The Aerial Noctiluca: Poems, 1976–1980, Poet and Printer (Middlesex, England), 1982.
Abolishing the Dark (poetry), Peterloo Poets (Cornwall, England), 1984.
(Editor) Poetry Review: New Generation Poets, Poetry Society (London, England), 1994.
(Editor and author of introduction) Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry, Viking (London, England), 1999.
(Translator) Primo Levi, The Search for Roots: A Personal Anthology, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2002.
The Gecko's Foot: Bio-Inspiration—Engineering New Materials and Devices from Nature, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2006.
Editor, Poetry Review, 1986–2002.
SIDELIGHTS: British poet Peter Forbes earned a degree in chemistry but pursued a career in poetry in addition to one in science publishing for several years. In Abolishing the Dark Forbes makes clear his belief that the two fields are, on a deeper level, not incongruous; science, after all, is the study of life forms in the universe, and thus not unfamiliar ground for the poet. Abolishing the Dark is divided into sections bearing such titles as "The Elements and Their Humours" that reflect this idea, and contains poems dealing with the magic and the mystery of science. Forbes also explores more personal subject matter, such as the operation performed on his infant son's tiny heart in "Poem for Ian." Bernard O'Donoghue wrote in a Times Literary Supplement review that "Forbes is too fond of poetic formality" at times, but concluded that, on the whole, Abolishing the Dark "carries the promise of a notable poet." An assessment from British Book News critic G.B.H. Whightman ended on a similarly positive note: Forbes, Whightman wrote, "is best when he tartly observes the queerness in the familiar and gently places our concerns against the universe's timetable."
Forbes also devoted himself to editing collections of British verse and to his work as editor of Poetry Review. One of these, Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry, received a certain amount of press attention. It is divided into sections bearing such headings as "Death Fugue: The Holocaust, 1933–1945," and "All the Lonely People: The Individual," that reflect the events and philosophies of the century. Forbes chose poems from a wide range of international writers that attempt to condense the major sorrows and achievements of "a secular and highly mobile age, when the timeless repetition of seasons and religious rites have lost their force," as he wrote in the introduction. Scanning the Century includes selections from W.H. Auden, Anna Akhmatova, Bertolt Brecht, and Wole Soyinka, among others.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Forbes, Peter, Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry, Viking (London, England), 1999.
British Book News, September, 1984, G.B.H. Whightman, review of Abolishing the Dark, pp. 564-565.
Spectator, May 28, 1994, William Scammell, review of Poetry Review: New Generation Poets, pp. 36-37; March 27, 1999, P.J.J. Kavanagh, review of Scanning the Century, p. 39.
Times Literary Supplement, April 2, 1982, review of The Aerial Noctiluca: Poems, 1976–1980, p. 392; December 14, 1984, Bernard O'Donoghue, review of Abolishing the Dark, p. 1456; June 25, 1999, Stephen Knight, review of Scanning the Century, p. 25.