home> poets> Cliff Forshaw biography

more poems       back to Cliff’s page           Members’ Events Listing       Shop Online

last update:
11 Oct16

Cliff Forshaw photo e-mail Cliff
Cliff Forshaw website & blog

poetry favourites:
The Common online
The Common: Cliff’s Dantean satire hole
The Humber Writers – collaborative books and films
Shadows in the Scrub – ABC Radio, the Tasmanian Tiger
Zone Poetry – Borsec artists’ residency, Transylvania

and in the shop…
collections –
“Pilgrim Tongues”
Wrecking Ball Press;
Arc Publications



Cliff Forshaw is a poet and painter. His latest collection Pilgrim Tongues (Wrecking Ball, 2015) travels from Hull to Vietnam and back, by way of Israel, Transylvania, California and Cambodia, continuing the voyages he embarked upon in Wake (Flarestack Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2009).
Previous collections include Vandemonian (Arc, 2013), which focuses on Van Diemen’s land and its inhabitants – human and animal, newcomer and Aborigine – to piece together a fragmentary history of Tasmania and Trans (The Collective Press, Wales, 2005) which culminates in a rewriting of the Metamorphoses – Ovid meets a gross-out freak circus to chat about everything from bodily modification to virtual survival and do-it-yourself surgery. It’s myth. It’s life, but not as we know it, Jim.
Cliff has been: writer-in-residence in France, Romania and Tasmania; a Djerassi Resident Artist in California; twice a Hawthornden Writing Fellow; and winner of the Welsh Academi John Tripp Award. He has been invited to read in Brussels, Palo Alto, Dublin, Sydney and Suceava (Romania). In 2016 he appeared at the XII International Festival of Poetry in Granada, Nicaragua.
He exhibits his paintings regularly and they have illustrated various collaborative projects. He has also made three short films: Drift (Humber Mouth Festival 2008); Under Travelling Skies, (Larkin25 Words Award Winner,2012); and Slipway, (Wordquake / Beverley Literature Festival 2013). Hole, Cliff’s satirical epic in which Philip Larkin leads us through a Dantean Hell (in search of Hull), is The Common online’s March poetry feature (2016). It also features several of his paintings: The Common online feature
Cliff left school at sixteen and worked in an abattoir before attending art college and sporadically studying languages and literatures at Warwick, Cambridge and London. After various jobs abroad and freelance writing in London, Cliff completed his doctorate on Renaissance Literature at Oxford. He is now Senior Lecturer in English at Hull University. His latest project is a series of large Hull cityscapes accompanied by poems. For these and more, please see Cliff’s website
Reviews and comments:
on Pilgrim Tongues:

The high energy of Cliff Forshaw’s poems makes me think particularly of Donne and the other Metaphysicals: argument, wit, erudition and force of feeling all working to convey an authentic vision of the world we live in.


Christopher Reid


These are poems captained by a large intelligence and abundant lexical vigour, poems of voyage, exertion and discovery. They enjoy the challenge of unpredictable and unusual locations, geographical and psychological. At the same time, they demonstrate grounded, dependable craft. They never trick the reader, but, witty and exuberant, send us on our poetic journeys with new imaginative maps.


Carol Rumens


Cliff Forshaw is a poet of rooted non-attachments, a nomad of the suburbs and a boulevardier of the wild places. As maps go, Pilgrim Tongues is the one that will get you lost, but you’ll thank its author for it, later, or maybe even at the time.


David Wheatley


The voice here is distinctive and mercurial – cool, intelligent yet engaged – the spirit of Larkin, perhaps, re-emerging, muscular and revitalised, in the 21st century.


Flarestack Prize judges


a dizzying, noisy world tour viewed through the prism of classical learning and told with dazzling accomplishment and technique. With a voice that is frank and inquisitive, the poet tackles complex themes and ideas with enviable accessibility and wit … a rich, densely populated collection that speaks to the mind and the ear. It is multilingual and peripatetic in its concerns and always open to the strange and new. Above all this collection is characterised by an iridescent lyricism.


Christopher James in Iota 95


on Vandemonian:

a humanist vision of nightmare handled with great wit and linguistic exuberance, erudition brought to life with the full force of feeling. A remarkable and somewhat shaming read.


William Bedford in The Warwick Review


a thrilling, fascinating collection of poems; read it in one sitting for the most intense experience of the voyage.


Kay Syrad in Envoi


One of the striking dimensions of Forshaw’s book is that, whilst acknowledging his source material, he writes in a manner that seamlessly and organically presents themes, subject matter and historical detail in an original fusion that communicates a fascinating story of cultural collision […] a finely fettled piece of poetic art.


Michael Woods in Iota


on the Ned Kelly Hymnal section:

The ‘Hymnal’ poem achieves real dignity out of its mix of filmic, modernist detail and grave statement.


Ken Bolton in Jacket


on Trans

What do you look for in a book of new poems? A voice like 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


constant flashes and sparkles of real wit … Trans is one of the most original collections I’ve read in a long time.


David Kennedy, co-editor The New Poetry


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: a review from GWales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.