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Donald Allen Collection
MSS 0003  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Donald Allen Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0003
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 48.0 Linear feet (105 archives boxes, 1 records carton, 1 card file box, 34 oversize folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1930 - 2005
    Abstract: Papers of an important editor who has had a significant impact on the development of post WWII American poetry. The Donald Allen Collection consists of four different groups or series of materials: materials pertaining to the editorial work at Grove Press, Four Seasons Foundation, Grey Fox Press, and to special projects Allen did for University of California, Penguin and St. James presses; materials produced by and regarding the poet Frank O'Hara; papers written by Allen at the universities of Iowa and California, Berkeley; and finally a substantial correspondence with many of the most important writers and editors in America during the last twenty five years. The addition processed in 1991 contains manuscript and typescript materials related to the Four Seasons Foundation publication of Interviews (1980) by Edward Dorn and The Graces (1983) by Aaron Shurin; and the Grey Fox Press publication of Enough Said (1980) by Philip Whalen and I Remain (1980), a collection of Lew Welch's letters. The addition processed in 2011 enhances the earlier accessions with additional press files, correspondence, as well as Allen's personal subject files.
    Creator: Allen, Donald, 1912-2004

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accession Processed in 1986
    The papers document the editing and publishing accomplishments of Donald Allen, and incidentally inform many literary careers. Although there is material from the 1930s, the bulk of papers date from 1957 to 1975. The collection is arranged in four series: 1) PRESS COLLECTIONS, 2) PAPERS RELATED TO FRANK O'HARA, 3) PERSONAL PAPERS, and 4) GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE.
    The first series, PRESS COLLECTIONS, is divided into six sub series corresponding to the six presses with which Allen was associated: GROVE PRESS, EVERGREEN PRESS, PENGUIN PRESS, ST. JAMES PRESS, FOUR SEASONS PRESS and GREY FOX PRESS.
    The second series, PAPERS RELATED TO FRANK O'HARA consists of manuscripts, correspondence and miscellaneous materials without division into sub series; the PERSONAL PAPERS series fills a single archives box and includes Allen's MA thesis.
    The last of the four series which comprise the Donald Allen collection consists of general correspondence. The general correspondence papers are arranged alphabetically, and within each folder materials are arranged chronologically. The presence of carbon copies of Allen's own letters has made it possible to reconstruct significant epistolary exchanges, augmenting the collection's importance to scholars.
    As a whole, the Donald Allen Collection richly documents the American literary temperament ca. 1956-1980, casting much light on the compositional practices and biographies of many important poets.
    Accession Processed in 1991
    The accession to the DONALD ALLEN PAPERS processed in 1991 contains materials which Allen employed in the publication of Four Seasons Foundation and Grey Fox Press books. It continues the arrangement of the earlier processed accession and is organized into one series: PRESS COLLECTIONS.
    The PRESS COLLECTIONS series is further divided into Four Seasons Foundation and Grey Fox Press. Edward Dorn's Interviews and Aaron Shurin's The Graces are represented in the first subseries, while Lew Welch's I Remain and Philip Whalen's Enough Said are found in the second.
    The bulk of the addition relates to Allen's research and correspondence for I Remain, a collection of posthumously published letters from Lew Welch to friends and relatives. Included are photocopies of letters by Welch published in the two volume work, as well as numerous items which remain unpublished. Allen corresponded with Welch's friends in his search for extant materials and developed a chronology of the poet's life and activities. Among the correspondents represented in the research materials are Gary Synder, Philip Whalen, and Stella Kerouac.
    Accession Processed in 2011
    This accession of the Donald Allen Collection includes documents which span the entire arc of the editor and publisher's career and personal life. The material dates from 1930 up to his death in 2004, although the bulk of the correspondence and press files range from 1955 to 2004. This addition illuminates Allen's personal life with biographical materials, personal correspondence, and his own subject files, notes, writings, and notebooks. The collection almost completely retains Allen's own organization of the materials and is arranged in two series: 1) PRESS COLLECTIONS and 2) PERSONAL PAPERS.
    The PRESS COLLECTIONS series is arranged in six subseries: A) Grove Press, B) Evergreen Press, C) Four Seasons Foundation, D) Grey Fox Press, E) University of California Press, and F) Miscellaneous Press.
    A) The Grove Press subseries contains materials related to the editing of the landmark anthology The New American Poetry: 1940-1965 including galleys, reviews, permissions, research notes, and drafts. Also included are general correspondence, ephemera, and clippings collected by Allen that are related to Grove Press.
    B) The Evergreen Press subseries includes material related to two important issues of the Evergreen Review edited by Allen, the landmark "San Francisco Scene" (Issue 2) and "Eye Of Mexico" (Issue 7). Included are correspondence, research notes, ephemera, and clippings.
    C) The Four Seasons Foundation subseries includes Allen's meticulously kept files for individual books published under his control by Four Seasons Foundation. These files include clippings, correspondence, permissions, proofs, contracts, ephemera, printing records, reviews, book lists, copyright registrations, and other documents relating to Allen's work at the press. This subseries features documents related to publications by writers such as Robin Blaser, Richard Brautigan, Robert Creeley, Joanne Kyger, Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen. Documents relating to the finances, sales, and inventory of the press are also contained within this subseries. The miscellaneous correspondence are grouped together and ordered chronologically.
    D) The Grey Fox Press subseries keeps with the arrangement of the Four Seasons Foundation subseries and features clippings, correspondence, permissions, proofs, contracts, ephemera, printing records, reviews, book lists, copyright registrations, and other documents relating to Allen's work at the press. Documents relating to publications written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Frank O'Hara, Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, Jack Spicer, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen are included. This subseries also contains documents relating to the press' finances, inventory, and sales. The miscellaneous correspondence are grouped and ordered chronologically.
    E) The University of California Press subseries documents three significant editorial works by Donald Allen: the re-release of The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, and The Collected Prose of Charles Olson. The subseries, arranged alphabetically, contains correspondence, research notes, clippings, photographs, proofs, mock-ups, and reviews.
    F) The Miscellaneous Press subseries contains documents relating to Allen's various press projects, both published and unpublished, which cannot be categorized in the other subseries. The projects include various translations and proposed anthologies, along with correspondence and research notes relating to multiple ultimately unrealized volumes of poetry proposed by Donald Allen for the Penguin Modern Poets series. The materials include correspondence, research notes, permissions, clippings, and review lists.
    The PERSONAL PAPERS series sheds light on Allen's personal interests and history. Almost entirely maintaining Allen's own organization and folder titles, the ephemera, clippings, correspondence, and visual materials within this series illuminate his life outside of editing. The series is arranged in five subseries: A) Biographical Materials, B) Correspondence, C) Subject Files, D) Writings, and E) Images & Recordings.
    A) The Biographical Materials subseries contains materials related to the personal life of Donald Allen from his youth in Iowa, service in the U.S. Navy, college in Iowa and Berkeley, and adulthood spent in New York, San Francisco, and Bolinas. Included are transcripts, correspondence, naval records, diplomas, identification cards, passports, photographs, clippings, obituaries, and wills.
    B) The Correspondence subseries, arranged alphabetically, contains letters and emails from Robin Blaser, George Butterick, Robert Creeley, Barbara Guest, Charles Olson, Marjorie Perloff, and Warren Tallman, among others. Because Allen's arrangement of the material was retained, this subseries contains both personal and business corresondence. Additional correspondence can also be found in the PRESS COLLECTIONS series, as well as in the Subject Files subseries.
    C) The Subject Files subseries contains materials compiled by Donald Allen that related to his various interests. The bulk of the material is comprised of clippings and ephemera. In addition, correspondence and handwritten and typed notes can be found within the subseries. Topics include the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Frank O'Hara, Charles Olson, the San Francisco Renaissance, and Zen Buddhism. The files are arranged alphabetically by topic; however, in maintaining Allen's own organization of the material, the topics of materials within the miscellaneous subject files are not always immediately clear.
    D) The Writings subseries contains various documents of Donald Allen's own writing, including poetry, essays, and fiction, along with several folders of Allen's handwritten notes, notebooks, and planners. Miscellaneous writings are contained in a single folder, while the notebooks and planners are arranged chronologically.
    E) The Images & Recordings subseries contains photographic prints, transparencies, and negatives collected by Donald Allen both personally and for use in his publications and editorial projects. Featured are numerous photographs of Donald Allen, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Frank O'Hara, Michael Rumaker, Gary Snyder, and Lew Welch. Also included are audio cassette tapes of Lew Welch's 1971 reading of How I Work As A Poet at Reed College.


    Donald Allen, one of the most influential editors and publishers of contemporary American literature, was born in Iowa in 1912. During the Second World War he was a Japanese translator, and then became an editor at Grove Press, where he stayed for sixteen years. Allen devoted his career to making innovative writing available to the public. He has edited several important anthologies of contemporary American writing and has published the work of many important poets through his two presses.
    Allen's editorial career began in the mid fifties when he accepted a position with Grove Press. One of his early projects was a collection of work by Brother Antoninus (William Everson), Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Jack Spicer, and other poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, for an issue of Grove's Evergreen Review (1957). He also aided in editing "The Eye of Mexico," an Evergreen issue devoted to contemporary Mexican writing and culture. During these first years at Grove Allen translated several of Eugene Ionesco's theatre works, including The Bald Soprano (Grove, 1958), and edited books by Jack Kerouac, John Rechy, Lysander Kemp, and others.
    In 1958, Allen began work on his most important project at Grove, The New American Poetry anthology. Following the Pound/Williams tradition, Allen hoped to present the range of experimental writing produced in the United States since the Second World War. The project took two years to complete and required extensive correspondence with poets, editors, and literary agents. Finally published in 1960, the anthology chronicled the emergence of the Beat, Black Mountain, and New York schools of poetry. It also increased recognition for such poets as Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn, and Charles Olson. Allen originally planned to publish revised anthologies every two or three years. However, he produced only two such books over the next twenty years: New American Writing (Penguin, 1965), and The Postmoderns (Grove, 1965).
    Other anthologies compiled by Allen are The New American Story (Grove, 1963), a collection of experimental prose, and The Poetics of the New American Poetry (Grove, 1973), a collection of aesthetic statements by many of the poets appearing in the anthologies. Like The New American Poetry, each of these collections has had a major impact on the shape and scope of experimental American writing. In 1963 Allen reduced his workload at Grove Press by moving to the position of consulting editor. He planned to start his own magazine of contemporary American writing, but the Four Seasons Quarterly never materialized. However, his work on the magazine did lead to the establishment of the Four Seasons Foundation and, subsequently, the Grey Fox Press. Under Allen's direction since 1964, both of these presses have published the work of such poets as Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Lew Welch and many others.
    Donald Allen died August 29, 2004, in San Francisco, at the age of 92.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1978, 1989, 2010.

    Preferred Citation

    Donald Allen Collection, MSS 3. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Adam, Helen, 1909-1993 -- Correspondence
    Allen, Donald, 1912-2004 -- Archives
    Ashbery, John, 1927- -- Correspondence
    Berkson, Bill -- Correspondence
    Blackburn, Paul -- Correspondence
    Blaser, Robin -- Correspondence
    Boyd, Bruce -- Correspondence
    Boyle, Kay, 1902-1992 -- Correspondence
    Brautigan, Richard -- Correspondence
    Bremser, Ray -- Correspondence
    Broughton, James, 1913-1999 -- Correspondence
    Corman, Cid -- Correspondence
    Corso, Gregory -- Correspondence
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
    Di Prima, Diane -- Correspondence
    Dorn, Edward -- Correspondence
    Duncan, Robert, 1919-1988 -- Correspondence
    Eigner, Larry, 1927-1996 -- Correspondence
    Evergreen Press Ltd.
    Everson, William, 1912-1994 -- Correspondence
    Ferlinghetti, Lawrence -- Correspondence
    Field, Edward, 1924- -- Correspondence
    Four Seasons Foundation.
    Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 -- Correspondence
    Grey Fox Press.
    Grove Press.
    Guest, Barbara -- Correspondence
    Hall, Donald, 1928-
    Hoyem, Andrew -- Correspondence
    Ionesco, Eugène -- Correspondence
    Kemp, Lysander, 1920-1992 -- Correspondence
    Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969 -- Correspondence
    Koller, James -- Correspondence
    Kyger, Joanne -- Correspondence
    Lamantia, Philip, 1927-2005 -- Correspondence
    Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997 -- Correspondence
    Loewinsohn, Ron -- Correspondence
    Mac Low, Jackson -- Correspondence
    McClure, Michael -- Correspondence
    Meltzer, David -- Correspondence
    O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966 -- Correspondence
    Olson, Charles, 1910-1970 -- Correspondence
    Rumaker, Michael, 1932- -- Correspondence
    Sanders, Ed -- Correspondence
    Schaff, David -- Correspondence
    Schuyler, James -- Correspondence
    Snyder, Gary, 1930-
    Waldman, Anne, 1945- -- Correspondence
    Welch, Lew -- Correspondence
    Whalen, Philip -- Correspondence
    Wieners, John, 1934-2002 -- Correspondence
    Williams, Jonathan, 1929-2008 -- Correspondence
    Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963 -- Correspondence
    Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978 -- Correspondence
    American poetry -- 20th century
    Poetry -- 20th century -- Manuscripts
    Poetry -- Editing
    Publishers and publishing -- United States