John Forbes was born in Melbourne in 1950, and spent his childhood between Melbourne, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Townsville, then the southern suburbs of Sydney for his high school years. His poetry was first published in New Poetry in 1971, his first collection published in 1976. He worked variously as a reviewer, labourer, freelance poetry tutor and removalist and was a voluntary mentor to many younger poets.
John Forbes was widely published in Australia and highly esteemed by his many fans, students, peers and colleagues. Homage to John Forbes was first published in 2008 and is in its fourth reprint.
He died suddenly of a heart attack in January 1998.