Born in 1945, Calvin Forbes grew up in Newark, New Jersey. He was the seventh of eight children born to Jacob and Mary Forbes (née Short). Forbes was the first of the six boys in his family to graduate from high school. He attended Rutgers University and the New School for Social Research, where he studied with José García Villa. Forbes earned an MFA from Brown University.
Forbes’s books of poetry include The Shine Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2001); From the Book of Shine (Burning Deck, 1979); and Blue Monday (Wesleyan University Press, 1974). His poems have appeared in anthologies such as A Century in Two Decades: A Burning Deck Anthology, 1961–81 (Burning Deck, 1982) and New Black Voices: An Anthology of Contemporary Afro-American Literature (New American Library, 1972).
Forbes’s honors and awards include fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Forbes is a professor emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he teaches writing, literature, and jazz history.