Paul Allen
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Paul Allen

Charleston, South Carolina, United States

Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Band Spoken Word Singer/Songwriter


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"Ground Forces--Pre publication blurbs"

I am throwing no phony bouquets when I say that, on reading this, I often felt, as someone once said, like putting my quill back in my goose. Allen manages to be funny, deeply reverent, judicious, and moving all in the same breaths. He is one of the best poets going. --Sydney Lea, poet, novelist, essayist

‘Long awaited,’ doesn't nearly cover the lapse that is redressed with the publication of Paul Allen's Ground Forces. Allen is an American original, whose darker visions are redeemed by the lights assembled here. Here then -- or hear then -- a mighty dose of what Dr. Williams called ‘the ground sense necessary.’ And we are all the better for his gifts. --Thomas Lynch, essayist, poet

In writing Ground Forces Paul Allen enters with terrific energy into the tradition of the mystic poets: In a poetry by turns ecstatic, searching, and raw, Allen examines the religious experience found in the everyday trials of living. Perhaps it’s an osprey on a high-power line fringed with light, or the boy hitchhiker with a bad tooth that most shy away from, or the alcoholic undertaker who pieces together the suicide’s skull. What we learn from Allen is how each of these “least of these” enhances and tests our own humanity. It’s brave work he’s done for us here. --Carol Ann Davis, author of Psalm, Editor of Crazyhorse

Ground Forces is about brokenness--brokenness and, with richly explored theological implications, everything in the broken world, the fallen world. The voice of these poems is wildly funny, often profane (and sometimes that profanity is ironic and sometimes it's pure rage) but always exact, smart, self-aware, and driven to a song like nothing else I know in contemporary poetry. --Andrew Hudgins, poet

The irresistible truthtelling at the heart of Paul Allen's work brings a joy
of fellow feeling seldom available in contemporary poetry. --Michael Heffernan, poet
- Salmon Publishing Ltd. Ireland

"His Longing: The Small Penis Oratorio"

His Longing (The Small Penis Oratorio). FootHills Publishing, 2005

Les Merton, Editor, Poetry Cornwall/Bardhonyeth Kernow (England)
“The prologue: ‘Charity,’ is reproduced on the back cover, it's opening line: ‘Everybody has a small penis somewhere’ does not make one realise the depths of this book. The acknowledgements give a more precise overview. See: Read it—Be surprised.”

David DeWitt, Playwright. Paris, France
“I love the central conceit -- that hidden part of ourselves that just IS and makes us feel not big enough, not smart enough, not good enough. And the resolution of that by the last poem—it's really fantastic. The oratorio really takes hold and communicates a broader sense of just what it is, that essence of ‘not enoughness’ in the face of earth and heaven.”

"American Crawl"

Newton Smith, Asheville Poetry Review: “Allen…gives us the real South back again—the country music, family trips to the beach, phone calls home from ‘smoking, wet Seattle,’ pickup trucks, and another beer. With comedy, surreal seriousness, and antic desperation, Allen turns facts into art and creates lines you’ll read out loud to friends on the phone because that’s the way you are, that’s us.”

Curtis Derrick, The State : “Grace, in truth, as the book reveals, is the mother of life’s ironies. It comes all the time and reverses everything; the first are last, and the last are first. The meek inherit. American Crawl reveals that every creed is what we want to believe, and that its fulfillment will be none of our doing.”

Scott Ward, Southern Humanities Review : “Like most good stories, the poems in American Crawl recreate immediate, disturbing truths. Though never stated explicitly, the culminating suggestion of the theme is that, for the American male, to live is to be in a state of continual rehabilitation from one experience after another in which his cultural values have failed him.

Thomas Lynch, The Detroit Free Press: “These are not poems you can read and forget. They imprint and impact their readers with the quiet delivery of such sane and sobering images that we cannot shake them. They observe that most of our wounds are self-inflicted, and some of the wounded do not survive. Nearer to the ferocious facts of this life, these poems steadfastly avoid the temptation to instruct the reader on what to feel, or what to think, or when to feel or think it. Reading Allen, one is blessedly on one’s own. What the poet gives us, in his good-ole-boy plain chant (behind which lurks a wry and incisive witness) is the moment, the details of the case, the glimpse, however fleeting, of the Truth of the Matter.” - University of North Texas Press

"CD: The Man with the Hardest Belly"

Josh Ritter, Singer-Songwriter / “Allen’s cd is AMAZING. It has totally made me rethink the potential for recorded music. I’m going to play it for everyone I know.”

Michael Heffernan: “It’s a little dangerous to listen to Allen’s cd in rush-hour traffic. Laugh-out-loud-lose-control-of-the-wheel outrageous, wild, mad, stuff. I got all the way through and started over on my way home, laughing all the way, laughing and crying.”

Turk’s Head Review: “The poetry is good, image-rich stuff—the kind of thing you find in quality literary journals, and his songs have a gentle John Prine-ish, Woody Guthrie-ish lilt to them. A spicy mix! We need more of Allen’s kind of blending of artistic levels: the high, the low, the in between.”

Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley: “Paul Allen has a way of making the truly heart-breaking things of our lives sound hilarious rather than hopeless. He takes the quotidian and expands it into all its complexities, sometimes profound and sometimes playful.”

- Glebe Street Productions


KWAME DAWES, Director, SC Poetry Initiative, University of South Carolina: “His performance was just what we wanted and it was splendid. People spoke well of it. I really appreciate his generosity, his goodwill and his warmth.”

WILL MOREDOCK, SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE NEWSLETTER, Unitarian Church: “Those who heard singer/songwriter Paul Allen at our recent Gage Hall Coffeehouse know what a rare blend of humor and musical talent he brings to the stage. He entertained with poetry and song and kept a tough audience of 70 in his spell for two hours. We are counting the days until he makes his return.”

CHARLENE SPEARMAN, Assistant Director, SC Poetry Initiative, University of South Carolina: “It was good music to hear the folks laughing and to watch them nodding during lunch as you exercised your craft. You are what is called "an accomplished poet." Thank you for the gift of your art, your kind words.”

BOOTH CHILCUTT, Sumter Opera House : “Paul Allen was selected to perform in Sumter’s inaugural spoken-word series. Allen defined the term ‘performance poetry’ with his earthy, accessible lyrics and performance style. The audience responded with their raucous approval and unbridled enthusiasm.”

ELLIE DAVIS, coordinator, Monday Night Blues Series: “A Paul Allen performance is a roundtrip ticket to a land where compassion is taught through ‘the man with the hardest belly,’ and truth is found through ‘Metamucil in my cup.’ In this land, one swings from thin wire between raucous, belligerent fits of laughter to whispers of heartache. Rest assured, the audience is safely returned. The Paul Allen experience dazes the novice, dazzles the diehards. He has us wrapped around his little finger, over and over.”
- hosts' comments


Ground Forces (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2008)

. American Crawl (University of North Texas Press, 1997)
. His Longing: The Small Penis Oratorio (FootHills Publishing, 2005)
. CD:
. Waiting for the Last Bus
. The Man with the Hardest Belly: Poems and Songs (on Napster)



Professor of English, teaching poetry writing and writing song lyrics. Twice recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission's Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry and his essay on taste in poetry is included in 2008nPushcart Prizes: Best of the Small Presses XXXII. He has opened recently for singer-songwriters Bill Morrissey and Steve Young. He has given readings and performed in a number of venues, from open mics to university writers’ series, including, recently, Callanwolde Arts Center in Atlanta, Iota Club and Café in Washington, DC, and in August of 2005, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. In the fall of 2008, completed a month-long tour of Ireland (9 gigs in 7 cities) to launch his new book and new CD.