Richard James Allen

Richard James Allen was born in Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1960. He spent the first four years of his life in Vietnam and the next six in Japan. On his return to Australia Allen attended Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney, where he won several awards and graduated with first class honours.

In the early 1980s, he was an editor of Neos: Young Writers, one of the first magazines to publish poets such as Luke Davies, Dipti Saravanamuttu, Adam Aitken and John Hawke, as well as publishing early prose by Tim Winton, and advice to young writers from Les A. Murray, John Tranter, Bruce Beaver and Dennis Haskell.

Allen began writing poetry from the age of fourteen and regularly publishing his poems in Australian literary journals from the early 1980s. His first poetry book, The Way Out at Last & Other Poems, was published in 1986. He has since published seven further collections, including a verse novel in dictionary form, The Kamikaze Mind (2006). While each volume stands alone, six of these eight books also have a place in a large-scale and still unfolding poetic cycle entitled ‘The Way Out At Last’. 

At the end of the 1990s, Allen was elected first Secretary, then President, and finally appointed the first Artistic Director of the Poets Union, Inc. During this time he conceived of and directed the inaugural Australian Poetry Festival. He has won a number of awards (including two ATOM Awards) and received numerous nominations (including being shortlisted for a Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards).

Internationally acclaimed for constructing readings, performances, films and new media projects which are adaptations of his poetry through a fusion of art-forms, Allen has also written extensively for the stage, film and television, and with Karen Pearlman, edited the drama collectionPerforming the Unnameable: An Anthology of Australian Performance Texts (1999). 

In 2005, Allen won the Chancellor's Award for the most outstanding PhD thesis at the University of Technology, Sydney. Since then, he has been involved with cutting edge incursions into poetry and new media, as well as continuing his abiding interest in writing poetry for the page. His most recent publication is the book Fixing the Broken Nightingale (2014).


In reference to his poem for The Disappearing, he said:

"In the mid-1990s my partner Karen Pearlman and I were Artistic Directors of Tasdance in Tasmania.  We had the idea for a series of dance films to be made at the Port Arthur Historic Site.  Soon after our first visit, Australia’s worst massacre occurred.  We were going to shelve the project but site representatives where keen that we continue, to bring a different energy to that traumatised area.  Written some years later, this poem deals with issues that linger for me around a location which an original inmate described as having seen more suffering than any other place on earth."