Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1932, Grossman was educated at Harvard University, graduating with an MA in 1956 after several interruptions. He went on to receive a PhD from Brandeis University in 1960, where he remained a professor until 1991. In 1991 he became the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at The Johns Hopkins University where until 2005 he taught in the English Department, primarily focusing on poetry and poetics. He is now retired from teaching but continues to write.
Grossman's first marriage ended in divorce; he is currently married to novelist Judith Grossman. His children are Jonathan Grossman and Adam Grossman from the first marriage, and Bathsheba Grossman, Austin Grossman, and Lev Grossman from the second.
On November 11, 2006, on the occasion of his retirement, several friends, colleagues, and students of Grossman held a joint reading in his honor. These included Michael Fried, Susan Howe, Ha Jin, Mark Halliday, Breyten Breytenbach, Susan Stewart, and Frank Bidart. The event culminated with a reading by Grossman of poetry from his latest book of poems, Descartes' Loneliness.
- Wash Day, Descartes' Loneliness, Allen Grossman, Poetry Daily
- City of David, Descartes' Loneliness, Allen Grossman, Cahiers de Corey
- Dust, Allen Grossman, AGNI Online
- The Loss of the Beloved Companion, Ploughshares, Summer 1979
- The Thrush Relinquished, Ploughshares, Summer 1979
- The Book of Father Dust, Ploughshares, Summer 1979
- The Department, Ploughshares, Summer 1979
- Of The Great House, Ploughshares, Summer 1981
- Phoenix, Ploughshares, Winter 1990-91
- Poland of Death (III), Ploughshares, Summer 1991
- June, June, Ploughshares, Winter 1995-96
- Latch, Ploughshares, Winter 1999-00
- The Garden Oak, Ploughshares, Spring 2008
- A Harlot's Hire, (Cambridge, Mass.: Boars Head Press, 1959).
- The Recluse, (Cambridge, Mass.: Pym-Randall Press, 1965).
- And The Dew Lay All Night Upon My Branch, (Lexington, Mass.: Aleph Press, 1974).
- The Woman on the Bridge over the Chicago River, (New York: New Directions, 1979).
- Of The Great House, (New York: New Directions, 1982)
- The Bright Nails Scattered on the Ground, (New York: New Directions, 1986).
- The Ether Dome and Other Poems New and Selected, (1979–1990) (New York: New Directions, Fall 1991).
- The Song of the Lord, (Watershed, 1991). An audiotape where the author reads poems selected from The Ether Dome.
- How to Do Things with Tears, (New York: New Directions, 2001).
- Sweet Youth, (New York: New Directions, 2002).
- Descartes' Loneliness, (New York: New Directions, 2007)
- True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009)
- Poetic Knowledge in the Early Yeats, a study of The Wind Among the Reeds (University of Virginia Press, 1969)
- The Sighted Singer Two Works on Poetry (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992) Contains (Part II): "Summa Lyrica: A Primer of the Common Places in Speculative Poetics".
- The Long Schoolroom: Lessons in the Bitter Logic of the Poetic Principle (University of Michigan Press, 1997).
- "The Passion of Laocoon: Warfare of the Religious Against the Poetic Institution" in Western Humanities Review, Vol LVI Number 2 Fall 2002, pp. 30–80.
- "Wordworth's 'The Solitary Reaper': Notes on Poiesis, Pastoral, and Institution", TriQuarterly 116, Summer 2003.
Prizes and Awards
- Garrison Award for Poetry (195?)
- Prize of the American Academy of Poetry (195?)
- A. B. Cohen Award for Teaching (1965)
- The Pushcart Prize (1975, 1987, 1990)
- Brandeis University Distinguished Service Award (1982)
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1982)
- National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1985)
- CASE Massachusetts State Professor of the Year (1987)
- Sara Teasdale Memorial Prize in Poetry (1987)
- Sheaffer-PEN/New England Award for Literary Distinction (1988)
- MacArthur Fellowship (1989)
- National Book Critics Circle Award nominee (1992)
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow (1993)
- Bollingen Prize (2009)
- Daniel Morris (ed.). Poetry's Poet: Essays on the Poetry, Pedagogy, and Poetics of Allen Grossman. National Poetry Foundation. ISBN 978-0-943373-66-9.
I'd like to crown him one of our great Low Moderns; he's Wallace Stevens with stronger stories to anchor lame minds such as my own; he's Eliot without footnotes. Like all great poets, he faithfully serves both word and world -- and us.
Here is the inevitable mix of everything Grossman can offer: a lyric tenderness, the weight of learning, and a strangeness matched only by poets now dead so long that it's hard to imagine resurrecting their prophetic energies in the language of twenty-first century America. Hard to imagine, except that by embracing what he once disdained as the "dreary language of carnal origin," this is exactly what Grossman has accomplished. "Weird river," says the rising sun as it weeps, "flow on."
- Allen Grossman wins 2009 Bollingen Prize in Poetry, University of Chicago
- Mary Karr (July 27, 2008). "Poet's Choice". The Washington Post.
- James Longenbach (April 8, 2002). "How to Do Things with Tears". Boston Review.
- Poetry readings and lectures at The University of Chicago, 18 Mar 2005, podcast