John Forbes in the gents’ toilet at the John Curtin Hotel

John Forbes with newspaper and toy howitzer, May 1984, photo by John Tranter
The Pen or the Sword? John Forbes with newspaper and toy howitzer, May 1984, Annandale NSW, photo by John Tranter

I had a great time in July 2011 at the Poetry and the Contemporary conference held at the Victorian Trades Hall in Carlton, Melbourne, Australia. Deakin University in Melbourne was the sponsor, and a large crowd of young people attended, many of them both poets and academic scholars. There were many papers on dozens of topics including J.H. Prynne, Sapphic Mythologies, Troubador poetry, and the poetry of the late John Forbes, who seemed very present.

He described himself as flipping through Adorno as one flips through a copy of a movie-star gossip magazine: that cynical yet funny blend of trash and treasure seemed to fit well with the youthful energy filling the crumbling old Trades Hall, a mouldering Victorian-era monument built when trade unions mattered.


I gave a well-received paper on some of the more experimental poems in my latest book «Starlight».

In the John Curtin Hotel
In the John Curtin Hotel... indeed he is.

A recent email from Alan Wearne, an old friend of John Forbes, took me back to the heady atmosphere of that conference. It carries an attachment, originally sent by Edward Davies, a photo of the wall or ceiling of the gents toilet at the John Curtin Hotel, in Lygon Street opposite the Trades Hall building in Melbourne.

4 Replies to “John Forbes in the gents’ toilet at the John Curtin Hotel”

  1. Some Forbes fan has also written out the whole of ‘Speed, a pastoral’ in the toilets of the Old Bar in Johnston Street, Fitzroy. A nice change from ‘I rooted your Mum’ etc.

  2. Though from memory it lacks a credit…someone should head in there with a pen to fix it up (and take a picture).

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