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Richard James Allen (1960 – )

Richard James Allen, three quarters face in front of Entanglement Theory, Sydney, by Kyle Powderly (c) 2010 Physical TV Richard James Allen, three quarters face in front of Entanglement Theory, Sydney, by Kyle Powderly (c) 2010 Physical TV

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 nine further collections, including a verse novel in dictionary form, The Kamikaze Mind (2006), and his latest collection of poems, Fixing the Broken Nightingale (2013). While each volume stands alone, seven of these nine books also have a place in a large-scale and still unfolding poetic cycle entitled ‘The Way Out At Last’. Allen’s poetry has been desescribed as innovative, contemporary and highly imaginative. Its dark humour and wit are measured by an undertone of spiritual exploration and inquiry, influenced in part by a lifelong interest in Yoga and Buddhism. 

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). He has also judged performance poetry slams and is a highly regarded performer of poetry in his own right. 

Allen trained in classical and contemporary dance and performance, and began his career as a professional dancer and choreographer in the 1980s. In 1985 he began his long-standing creative partnership with Karen Pearlman, co-founding the New York-based performance company That Was Fast. In 1995, Allen and Pearlman became co-artistic directors of the Tasmanian dance company Tasdance. In their time as directors, Allen and Pearlman toured internationally with Tasdance, founded the Tasmanian Poetry and Dance festival, and made a number of films. In 1997, Pearlman and Allen founded the Sydney based performance company Physical TV, which concentrates on the production of dance film and video.

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 collection Performing 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 that time, 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.

Literary Archives: Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW 

Other Archivesfor Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman

AUSTLIT: Australian Literature Gateway

 Poetry Collections

  • The Way Out at Last and other poems (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1986).
  • To the Ocean, and Scheherazade (Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1989).
  • Hope for a Man Named Jimmie, and, Grand Illusion Joe (Wollongong: Five Islands Press, 1993).
  • What To Name Your Baby (Brooklyn, NSW: Paper Bark Press, 1995).
  • The Air Dolphin Brigade (Brooklyn, NSW: Paper Bark Press, 1995).
  • New Life on the 2nd Floor by Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman. (Launceston, Tas: Tasdance, 1996).
  • Thursday's Fictions (Wollongong, NSW: Five Islands Press, 1999). Website
  • The Kamikaze Mind (Sydney: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2006). Website

Suggested Further Reading

  • Wikipedia entry: Richard James Allen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_James_Allen
  • The Physical TV Company website: www.physicaltv.com.au
  • The Physical TV Channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/PhysicalTV
  • Interviews with Richard James Allen
  • Richard James Allen, ‘Eternal art form opens a window to the soul,’ The Australian, Opinion page, Tuesday Sept.14, 1999, p.15. http://www.wordworx.co.nz/Eternalart.htm 
  • Richard James Allen, ‘Providing viable illusions: the word is ...?’, RealTime, 32, August-September, 1999, p.16.
  • Richard Allen and Karen Pearlman, ‘The Relic and Rethinking a Lifetime,’ Rethinking Creative Processes. Berne, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2001,  pp. 29–38.
  • Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman, ‘The Physical TV Company and Thursday's Fictions’, in Katrina McPherson & Simon Fildes (eds): Opensource {Videodance} Symposium, 20th-24th November, 2007, Findhorn, Scotland http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/opensource-%7bvideodance%7d-symposium-20th---24th-november-2007-findhorn-scotland/4643347
  • Rosemary Bennet, ‘What to Call It? Dance that Talks,’ Island, 68, 1996, pp. 34–44.
  • Phylis Fahrie Edelston, ‘An Experiment in Poetry/Dance,’ Antipodes, 7.1, 1993, p. 66.
  • Keith Gallasch, ‘The book and beyond: Keith Gallasch enters The Kamikaze Mind’, Real Time, 74, August-September 2006, p.28 http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue74/8171
  • Mark Seton, ‘The Exhilaration and Anxiety of Free Fall,’ Jacket 33, 2007. http://jacketmagazine.com/33/seton-allen.shtml
  • Kevin Peters, ‘Poet alphabetically examines life, love, loss, and beyond’, Antipodes, Dec.1, 2007 http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-175873868/poet-alphabetically-examines-life.html
  • Sally Clarke, “Between words and dance – another language”, Brolga, June 1998, p. 54-55
  • Lisa Catherine Ehrich, “New Life on the 2nd Floor” (Book Review), Social Alternatives, Vol. 16, No. 2, April 1997
  • Lynette Kirby, “Poetry Shorts: The Air Dolphin Brigade”, Australian Book Review, No 179, April 1996
  • Sally Clarke, “Permanence in Poetry”, Brolga 5, December 1996, pp. 59-60
  • Kathy Kituai, “Hope for a man named Jimmie and Grand Illusion Joe” (Book Review), Muse 125, November 1993
  • Dennis Nicholson, “Associative Travels”, Mattoid 46/47, 1993
  • Mark Reid, “Hope for a man named Jimmie and Grand Illusion Joe” (Book Review), FAR, October/November 1993
  • Penelope Nelson, “Paperbacks: To the Ocean and Scheherazade”, The Weekend Australian, June 2-3, 1990
  • Rosemary O’Grady, “Poetry Collections: The Way Out and Other Poems”, Adelaide Advertiser, September 27, 1986