Duncan Forbes has published seven collections of poems, the most recent being Human Time in 2020. He read Classics and then studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and in 1974 his poems won an Eric Gregory award with particular praise from Philip Larkin. His poems were included in Poetry Introduction 5 (Faber, 1982) of which Vernon Scannell wrote ‘Duncan Forbes is a real discovery’.

His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies and have been broadcast on Radio 3 and Radio 4 and in the USA. In 1984, his first collection, August Autumn, appeared from Secker & Warburg. Since then, his collections of poetry have been published by Enitharmon: Public & Confidential (1989); Taking Liberties (1993); Voice Mail (2002); Vision Mixer (2006); and Lifelines: Selected Poems (2009). He has given poetry readings and talks from Durham to Hong Kong and has presented his work at over sixty venues including literary festivals at Aldeburgh, Brighton, Cheltenham, Henley, Swindon and Torbay, where he adjudicated the poetry competition in 2011.

His poem ‘La Brea’ won first prize in the 1998 TLS/Blackwells poetry competition and he has twice won a second prize in The Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation.  Duncan was a Hawthornden fellow in 2009 and his most frequently anthologised poem is ‘Recension Day’ which currently appears in The Poetry Pharmacy (2017).


He was a secondary teacher of English and English Literature for over thirty years and was Head of English at Cheltenham College (1981 – 1993) and then at Wycombe Abbey School (1996 – 2009). He has taught and presented literature, poetry and history of art at various schools, colleges and universities.

A painter as well as a poet, his first solo exhibition called ‘Thames and Elsewhere’ took place in Henley in autumn 2009. He was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Worcester University from 2012 to 2016, then an RLF Consultant Fellow, and he is an honorary Fellow of the English Association. He now lives in Gloucestershire and is married with a son and daughter.

‘I may as well tell you, here and now, that if you are going about the place thinking things pretty, you will never make a modern poet. Be poignant, man, be poignant!’

P. G. Wodehouse in The Small Bachelor (1927)

Awards and Prizes

1963      Daily Mirror (now W.H.Smith) Children’s Literature Prize
1972      Daily Telegraph Cheltenham Festival ‘Poem For Our Time’ 2nd Prize
1974      E. C. Gregory Award
1975      A.V.Bowen Lyric poem prize
1975      Arts Council Award
1980      South West Arts Literature Award
1983      South West Arts Literature Award
1998      1st Prize (£2000) in TLS/Blackwells Poetry Competition
2006      2nd Prize The Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation.  (Commended 2008)
2010      2nd Prize The Times Stephen Spender Prize