Allen’s poetry combines contemporary philosophical concerns with a format more aligned with earlier poetic styles.
Poet, fiction writer, editor, educator. Gilbert Allen was born in Rockville Centre, New York, on New Year’s Day, 1951, to Joseph Aloysius Allen and Marie Skocik. He grew up in Long Island and married Barbara Jean Szigeti in 1974. Allen attended Cornell University, completing three degrees there–a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1972, a Master of Fine Arts in 1974, and a doctorate in 1977. From 1972 to 1975 he was a Ford Foundation fellow. Allen moved to South Carolina in 1977, becoming a professor of English at Furman University and establishing his residence in Travelers Rest.
Allen’s first collection of poetry, In Everything: Poems, 1972–1979, appeared in 1982 and was followed by three other volumes: Second Chances (1991), Commandments at Eleven (1994), and Driving to Distraction (2003). In addition to poems, he has published articles and short stories. His work includes more than three hundred contributions to magazines such as American Scholar, Cortland Review, Emrys Journal, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Pembroke, Image, Southern Humani- ties Review, and College English. Allen served as assistant editor of the journal Epoch from 1972 to 1977 and has edited Furman Studies.
In 1991, along with fellow Furman English professor William E. Rogers, Allen became cofounder and coeditor of Ninety-Six Press. Focusing primarily on the works of South Carolina poets, the press has produced twelve books to date, including 45/96: The Ninety-Six Sampler of South Carolina Poetry. Allen also continues to compose his own prose pieces.
Allen’s poetry combines contemporary philosophical concerns with a format more aligned with earlier poetic styles. As he puts it, most of his published work “tries to document the experience of living in America during the latter half of the twentieth century,” combining “both the impulse to believe and the inclination to be skeptical.” Along with the theme of family relationships, many common topics in his poetry include parts of nature, particularly cats, trees, and winter. “How anyone gets an idea about anything,” Allen says, “is one of the great mysteries.”
In 2007, his poem sequence entitled “The Assistant” won the Robert Penn Warren Prize from the Southern Review; that same year his chapbook Body Parts was published by the SC Poetry Initiative. Allen was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2014.
Allen, Gilbert. “Timber.” Southern Review 36 (winter 2000): 1–2.–––. “Walking through St. Patrick’s, Finding St. Joseph off the Side.” Southern Review 34 (summer 1998): 405–406.