Allnutt was born in London, but spent half her childhood in Newcastle upon Tyne. She attended the University of Sussex and Newnham College in Cambridge. She returned to the North East in 1988, and now lives in Esh Winning, County Durham.
Her books Nantucket and the Angel and Lintel were both shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. She read Philosophy and English at Cambridge, and from 1983 to 1988 she was poetry editor of City Limits magazine. Her collections Nantucket and the Angel and Lintel were both shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Poems from these collections are included in her Bloodaxe retrospective How the Bicycle Shone: New & Selected Poems (2007), which draws on six published books plus a new collection, Wolf Light, and was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Her latest collection is indwelling. She has also published Berthing: A Poetry Workbook (NEC/Virago, 1991), and was co-editor of The New British Poetry (Paladin, 1988). From 2001 to 2003 she held a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at Newcastle and Leeds Universities. She won the Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award in 2005 and received a Cholmondeley Award in 2010. Since 1983 she has taught creative writing in a variety of contexts, mainly in adult education and as a writer in schools. In 2009/10 she held a writing residency with The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (now Freedom From Torture) in the North East, working with asylum seekers in Newcastle and Stockton. In 2013/14 she taught creative writing to undergraduates on the Poetry and Poetics course in the English Department of Durham University. Gillian Allnutt has been named as the recipient of The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2016. The Medal is awarded for excellence in poetry, and was presented to Gillian Allnutt by The Queen in February 2017.
A photo of Gillian is on display in Room 37a at the National Portrait Gallery.
- Spitting the Pips Out (Sheba, 1981)
- Beginning the Avocado (Virago, 1987)
- Blackthorn (Bloodaxe Books, 1994) ISBN 978-1-85224-270-1
- Nantucket and the Angel (Bloodaxe Books, 1997) ISBN 978-1-85224-382-1
- Lintel (Bloodaxe Books, 2001) ISBN 978-1-85224-547-4
- Sojourner (Bloodaxe Books, 2004) ISBN 978-1-85224-669-3
- How the Bicycle Shone: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2007) ISBN 978-1-85224-759-1
- indwelling (Bloodaxe Books, 2013) ISBN 978-1-85224-980-9
- The New British Poetry (Paladin, 1988) (co-editor)
- Berthing: A Poetry Workbook (NEC/Virago, 1991)
- "Gillian Allnutt's publisher". Bloodaxe Books. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- Alumna Gillian Allnutt awarded Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 21 December 2016. Newnham College, Retrieved 7 March 2017
- Gillian Allnutt (2013). Indwelling. Bloodaxe books. ISBN 978-1-85224-980-9.
- "Portrait - National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 2017-03-07.
- "Gillian Allnutt". Literature Northeast. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
- "The Northern Rock Foundation Writer's Award 2005". The Northern Rock Foundation. 2005-03-15. Retrieved 2007-03-24.