Academic journal article Chicago Review

Damaged Glamour

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Damaged Glamour

Article excerpt

John Forbes. Damaged Glamour. Brandl & Schlesinger, 1998.

Damaged Glamour, published posthumously through the financial assistance of his family and friends, presents John Forbes's poetry with all its contradictions and tensions and stylish grace. His stance, or persona, in these poems is serious without taking itself too seriously, simultaneously hip and pathetic: "continually disappoint / the expectations of others, / this way you will come to hate yourself / & they will be charmed by your distress." He is as likely to be "thumbing through Adorno like New Idea / on a cold working day in Ballarat" as he is to be "listening to the delirious saxophone wail / of Little Richard's `You Keep On Knocking / But You Can't Come In. "' But Forbes is also capable of understated poignancy, as in "Love Poem," which ends, "we think we've invented / a new way of moving around the world / simply by breathing / & we have, we have." Forbes frequently mocks his own pretensions toward lovesickness, playing various roles in these poems and repeatedly pitting himself against the overly intellectual without ridiculing them (in fact, he plays the part of the fool brilliantly, so that we forget how intelligent the fool must be), as in "Europe, endless": Forbes's style also relies on tonal discrepancy. Lines such as "Any frayed waiting room copy of Who / could catch this scene: flash Euro- / trash surveys a sulky round faced / Babe who's got the lot," which begin the poem "On Tiepolo's Banquet of Cleopatra," highlight his talent for startling juxtapositions. This sort of clash between high and low culture appears throughout the collection and reinforces his aesthetic. …

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