Allen, Donald, 1912-2004

Alternative names
Birth 1912
Death 2004-08-29

Biographical notes:

Editor and publisher.

From the description of Papers, 1957-1971. (University of Connecticut). WorldCat record id: 28415680

American editor and publisher, born in Iowa in 1912. Allen was an editor at Grove Press for sixteen years, where his most important work was the anthology The New American Poetry. He founded the Four Seasons Foundation and Grey Fox Press. Allen also was the translator of works of Eugène Ionesco. Allen has had a significant impact on the development of post-World War II American poetry through publication of landmark anthologies and the works of numerous neglected poets.

From the description of Donald Allen collection, 1930-2005. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 18929159

American editor and publisher. Corman is an American poet and editor.

From the description of [Letter] 1964 January 7, San Francisco [to] Cid Corman, Kyoto, Japan / Donald Allen. (University of Connecticut). WorldCat record id: 18506185

From the description of [Letter] 1964 April 7, San Francisco [to] Cid Corman, Kyoto, Japan / Donald Allen. (University of Connecticut). WorldCat record id: 18506099

Notes from Donald Allen: "In the mid-1960s Robin Blaser and I worked to prepare a large anthology of the San Francisco Renaissance writers... Most of our tentative selections were poems, of course, but we also planned to include prose work by Jim Herndon, Richard Brautigan and Jack Kerouac. Then events intervened; Jack Spicer died soon after the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965, Robin moved to Vancouver for a post at Simon Fraser University, and I became more involved with work for Grove Press and in setting up my own small publishing company. Work on our anthology was suspended, as it turned out, for good."

From the description of Unpublished anthology of the San Francisco Renaissance, ca. 1965. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122553412


Donald Allen, one of the most influential editors and publishers of contemporary American literature, was born in Iowa in 1912. During the Second World War he was a Japanese translator, and then became an editor at Grove Press, where he stayed for sixteen years. Allen devoted his career to making innovative writing available to the public. He has edited several important anthologies of contemporary American writing and has published the work of many important poets through his two presses.

Allen's editorial career began in the mid fifties when he accepted a position with Grove Press. One of his early projects was a collection of work by Brother Antoninus (William Everson), Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Jack Spicer, and other poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, for an issue of Grove's Evergreen Review (1957). He also aided in editing "The Eye of Mexico," an Evergreen issue devoted to contemporary Mexican writing and culture. During these first years at Grove Allen translated several of Eugene Ionesco's theatre works, including The Bald Soprano (Grove, 1958), and edited books by Jack Kerouac, John Rechy, Lysander Kemp, and others.

In 1958, Allen began work on his most important project at Grove, The New American Poetry anthology. Following the Pound/Williams tradition, Allen hoped to present the range of experimental writing produced in the United States since the Second World War. The project took two years to complete and required extensive correspondence with poets, editors, and literary agents. Finally published in 1960, the anthology chronicled the emergence of the Beat, Black Mountain, and New York schools of poetry. It also increased recognition for such poets as Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn, and Charles Olson. Allen originally planned to publish revised anthologies every two or three years. However, he produced only two such books over the next twenty years: New American Writing (Penguin, 1965), and The Postmoderns (Grove, 1965).

Other anthologies compiled by Allen are The New American Story (Grove, 1963), a collection of experimental prose, and The Poetics of the New American Poetry (Grove, 1973), a collection of aesthetic statements by many of the poets appearing in the anthologies. Like The New American Poetry, each of these collections has had a major impact on the shape and scope of experimental American writing. In 1963 Allen reduced his workload at Grove Press by moving to the position of consulting editor. He planned to start his own magazine of contemporary American writing, but the Four Seasons Quarterly never materialized. However, his work on the magazine did lead to the establishment of the Four Seasons Foundation and, subsequently, the Grey Fox Press. Under Allen's direction since 1964, both of these presses have published the work of such poets as Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Lew Welch and many others.

Donald Allen died August 29, 2004, in San Francisco, at the age of 92.

From the guide to the Donald Allen Collection, 1930-2005, (Mandeville Special Collections Library)


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Ark ID:


  • Poetry--Editing
  • American literature--20th century
  • Poetry--20th century--Manuscripts
  • Publishers and Publishing
  • Federal aid to the arts
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Publishers and publishing--Manuscripts
  • Publishers and publishing--United States
  • Universities and colleges
  • Authors and publishers


  • Poets, American
  • Authors, American
  • Editors--United States


  • United States (as recorded)
  • San Francisco (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)