Trans (The Collective Press, Wales 2005)

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Trans culminates in a rewriting of the Metamorphoses - Ovid meets a gross-out freak circus to chat about everything from bodily modification to virtual survival: Lord Rochester's monkey; Enigma's horns; the Reincarnation of Saint Orlan; Kevin Cyborg; sex changes and do-it-yourself surgery. It's myth. It's life, but not as we know it, Jim.

"There's a real sense of attack and energy here as Forshaw gets to grip with the physical stuff of the world and, in the best sense of the time-worn phrase 'makes it new'. He's clearly interested in what things look like, sound like and feel like, and has a highly original take on myth. Trans is also engaged in a kind of hyper-active dialogue with the sonnet form and with Classical and Renaissance writers as vehicles for invention and variation. These echoes highlight the constant flashes and sparkles of real wit, while Forshaw's zest and erudition combine to make his work stand out from the mass of vaguely elegiac anecdote that dominates large areas of contemporary poetry... The 'Trans' section itself reads very much like a bravura finale where everything comes together. It surprises me that no-one's though about writing about the likes of Orlan and Enigma before, but again this helps to set his work apart. Trans iis one of the most original collections I've read in a long time." David Kennedy, co-editor The New Poetry

"What do you look for in a book of new poems? A voice llike no other, incisive, musical? An imagination like no other, trans-forming the world you thought you knew? A word-hoard deep enough for the demands of a big spender? Look and listen here." Jon Stallworthy

“electrifying verse and swaggering craft […] the tumbling diction is typical of Forshaw who has an exceptional ear […] be grateful for such an electrifying vision conveyed so urbanely.” Will Daunt, Envoi

“Like Ovid, Forshaw has real wit as a poet… this is the work of a poet skilled in his art.” Michael Nobbs, The Welsh Books Council

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Three Metamorphic Sonnets with Horns
Enigma has horns made of coral, which the body recognises as similar to bone, embedded in his skull.

i. Self-Portrait as Satyr

Well, one weekend, I gave myself horns
and pointed ears; upon the chin
the goatish curl of a satyr or faun.

The canvas mirrored me as Pan.
Portrait of the Artist as Devil
Ah, the sheer humanity of the man.

Varnished the thing, had it framed,
stuck on the wall like a disreputable ancestor.
Toyed with the idea of a forebear’s name,

some patronymic for the music my head had heard:
a kind of meme in that background beat deforming words

back-engineered to genes I’d satyrized, defaced:
Please allow me to introduce myself,
I’m a man of wealth and taste…


ii. Phrenology

I am my own masterpiece – long surpassed
my prentice work in steroids and tattoos;
botox, collagen; lips bee-stung; ribs removed.

Meanwhile, nature sets dilemmas on my brows.
“You need your bumps felt, you do,”
my old gran said and I guess it’s true.

Feel here, where skin is stretched,
these puckers, bumps. Look XXX!
– these little white-knuckled stitches,

my surgeon’s missing-you-already kisses.
See how we both signed on the dotted line,
here, on the brow where the past is erased,

where now there’s no more room for frowns.
Here – touch! – where coral knits to bone.

iii. Enigma

The classical world lives on in me,
ancient as bread and circuses.
Forget Linnaeus, his taxonomy’s
a footnote to my metamorphosis.
To classify’s mere pedantry.

You want class? Try Life. Try mixing it. Try hybrid vigour.
I’m not here to be described.
Let’s just say I am Enigma.
I am surf. I am reef. I live Beyond. I thrive Outside.

I make a poem of myself, a satyr: make skin, coral, bone, horn, all rhyme.
I seize the only day I’ve got, and every fucking day’s my prime.
If I’m defined, then let it be by pagan night – nox
est perpetua una dormienda
– and I tick the box
marked Other every time.
 

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