Calvin Forbes grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and attended both the New School for Social Research and Rutgers University. He earned his MFA from Brown University. His collections of poetry include Blue Monday (1974), From the Book of Shine (1979), and The Shine Poems (2001). His work has been anthologized in New Black Voices (1972) and A Century in Two Decades: A Burning Deck Anthology, 1961–81 (1982). Forbes is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where he teaches writing, literature, and jazz history; blues and jazz inform both the rhythm and content of his poetry. He often uses ballads to tell family stories or the ups and downs of romance. But Forbes updates the tradition with surreal techniques, epigrammatic humor, and changing voices. He described his work as “simplicity shacked up with complexity.”
Forbes is the recipient of fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fulbright Foundation.