Allman shows us…factual narratives that reconnect us to our historical roots, giving us a vision of how we got to be who we are, and what we may yet become.

Richard Fewell, The Small Pond Magazine

John Allman

John Allman (1935-2021) spent his childhood in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. In 1943 he moved with to Astoria, Queens, where he attended William Cullen Bryant High School until dropping out in 1952. He earned his diploma at night school while working as a laboratory technician in the product control labs of Pepsi-Cola. He then enrolled in Brooklyn College, as a pre-med student, but later transferred to Hunter College in the Bronx. After a period of time spent in California, as a technician, he settled on studying the humanities and chose to become a writer. For his MA in English literature and creative writing from Syracuse University, he studied with Donald Dike, Cecil Lang, Philip Booth and Delmore Schwartz.

Allman has received The Helen Bulls Prize from Poetry Northwest, a Pushcart Poetry Prize, and two National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships in Poetry (1984 and 1990). His work has been widely published in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, The American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and The Massachusetts Review.

cover image of the book Loew’s Triboro

Loew’s Triboro

In Loew’s Triboro, John Allman’s fourth collection of poems with New Directions, the poet recalls the movie palace in Astoria, Queens, and its centrality to the lives and fantasies of the people in the neighborhood, himself among them. In a combination of prose poems and free verse, sometimes darkly funny, Allman juxtaposes vignettes from the streets of New York with the movies of the period, revisioning such film noir classics as _The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, _and The Asphalt Jungle. “The movie theater in this book,” says Allman, “is the place of darkness where lives are expanded and our culture defines itself through its most common denominators. The projections on the screen are scripts of fate, people caught up by love or violence, as real lives slip in among the film lives—and vice versa.”

More Information
cover image of the book Curve Away From Stillness

Curve Away From Stillness

In Curve Away from Stillness, John Allman affirms the connections between poetry and science. They are, he says, as “old as the ones between poetry and cosmology, beauty and knowledge, pleasure and speculation.” In reading this collection of “Science Poems,” we are reminded of a philosophical tradition in literature that, with Lucretius, sees in the power of love the binding force of the universe. Allman’s poems, however-meditations on “Physics,” “Chemistry,” “Biology,” essential “Principles,” the “Planets”––are grounded in the science of our time, in all its elegance and awesomeness.

More Information
cover image of the book Scenarios for a Mixed Landscape

Scenarios for a Mixed Landscape

Scenarios for a Mixed Landscape, John Allman’s third collection of poems, is a book as remarkable for its lyricism as it is for its capaciousness, for there seems to be no area of thought, no branch of learning, no dark region of the mind into which the poet is unwilling to delve. His recent _Clio’s Children: Dostoevsky at Semyonov Square and Other Poems _is a reminder, as the title implies, that history is a narrative art. In his newest book, Allman reflects on art and nature, love and death—the dualities that animate our common humanity. The poems in _Scenarios for a Mixed Landscape _look back, at one level, to the mutable, mythic cosmos of Ovid as well as Lucretius’ universe of benign random change. But to these ancient considerations Allman brings the insights, indeed the language of modern science and evolution, creating a speculative aesthetic appropriate to the awesome possibilities of the atomic age.

“I would say,” Allman observes, “that _Scenarios for a Mixed Landscape _is about nature; that the poems speak in the complementary idioms of art and science in an attempt to comprehend nature; that love recapitulates all life forms; and that love, finally, is only the ground we stand on, the only steadiness beneath us, earned by us, yet strangely given, as we sing of glory and grief.”

More Information
cover image of the book Clio’s Children

Clio’s Children

John Allman’s Clio’s Children is a book of twenty-three narrative poems that, taken together, form a compelling history of modern times, seen through the eyes of exceptional people at key moments of their lives––moments of “historical epiphany” that serve to define an era. Fyodor Dostoevsky, in 1849, standing helpless and hopeless before the firing squad of Tzar Nicholas I; J. Robert Oppenheimer at Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 1945, about to witness the first nuclear explosion––these two turning points in personal consciousness are chosen by the poet to mark the century that preceded, and prefigured, our troubled postindustrial world. In all the poems, Allman’s dramatic settings point to the tension between the strength of the individual and the ever-encroaching power of the state. The personae he uses––from Dostoevsky to Oppenheimer, Frederick Douglass to Marcus Garvey, George Sand to Emma Goldman, to name just a few––are men and women of amazing gifts, whose greatness challenges our obsessions with the small and trivial, and whose human character is the reality of our history made flesh. These are the children of Clio, the muse of history, goddess of renown.

More Information

Allman shows us…factual narratives that reconnect us to our historical roots, giving us a vision of how we got to be who we are, and what we may yet become.

Richard Fewell, The Small Pond Magazine

Allman is among the first rank of American poets––he holds his place for his consistently fine ventures into new forms and ways of seeing.

The Bloomsbury Review

For Allman, geography is a means of understanding the ways of others, which he does warmly, compassionately, and with novelistic specificity.

Helen Carr, Times Literary Supplement

Allman’s voice…has a range of many octaves which provides this collection with a variety of tones… Allman’s imagination is capable of startling maneuvers, but he always holds to the tracks of the poem’s subject. He is like one of those specialized pilots at airshows who can fly upside down but close to the ground.

American Book Review
Scroll to Top of Page