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Donald Merriam Allen (Iowa, 1912 – San Francisco, August 29, 2004) was an influential editor, publisher, and translator of contemporary American literature. He is perhaps best known for his project The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (1960), among the several important anthologies of contemporary American innovative writing he made available to the public. Allen began his career, in part, as a translator. He was one of the first translators of French-Romanian Absurdist playwright Eugène Ionesco, and his 1958 volume Four Plays of Eugène Ionesco helped to introduce the playwright to American audiences in the 1960s.
Allen's impact as an editor, publisher, and friend to poets continued to be felt well into the 21st century. Along with editing work by Lew Welch, Allen edited Frank O'Hara, including the seminal Collected Poems (1971; 1991) and Selected Poems (1974). He is referred to directly in O'Hara's "Personal Poem" which is in Lunch Poems, a book Allen also edited. O'Hara writes, in reference to a conversation he had with LeRoi Jones, "we don't like Lionel Trilling/we decide, we like Don Allen." In 1960, Allen moved permanently from New York to San Francisco, where he established Grey Fox Press and the Four Seasons Foundation, two significant literary presses where he continued to publish work from Beat, San Francisco Renaissance, Black Mountain, and New York School writers, as well as younger new voices. He served as the CEO of Grey Fox Press, publishing important work by Jack Spicer along with such volumes as Enough Said (1980) by Philip Whalen and I Remain (1980), a collection of Welch's letters. Some other notable authors published by Grey Fox Press were: Richard Brautigan, Robert Duncan, Jack Kerouac, Joanne Kyger, Philip Lamantia, Charles Olson, John Rechy, Michael Rumaker, Aaron Shurin, and Gary Snyder.
While working with the Four Seasons Foundation, Allen assisted in the publication of (among others): Interviews (1980) by Edward Dorn, A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays (1970) by Robert Creeley, and The Graces (1983) by Aaron Shurin. In 1997, he helped edit, along with Benjamin Friedlander, the Collected Prose of Charles Olson (University of California Press).
Grey Fox Press
Grey Fox Press and Four Seasons Foundation were among the many emerging presses that City Lights distributed in the late 1960s, and when Don Allen began thinking about retirement, City Lights offered to acquire the backlists. Today, City Lights publishes the significant works from these presses in their City Lights/Grey Fox series.
- Great Anthology: The New American Poetry: 1945-1960 article at "The Academy of American Poets" website
- Whose New American Poetry? article by Marjorie Perloff
- Tribute to Donald M. Allen at Empty Mirror Books website
- Jacket Magazine tribute by Kevin Killian
- Extensive Interview with Donald Allen
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