John Allman spent his early childhood in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. In 1943, his family moved to Astoria, Queens, where he attended William Cullen Bryant High School until he dropped out in 1952. He earned his academic diploma at night school while working as a laboratory technician in the product control labs of Pepsi-Cola. He then enrolled in Brooklyn College as a pre-med student, but later transferred to Hunter College in the Bronx. He settled on studying the humanities and decided to become a writer. For his MA in English literature and creative writing from Syracuse University, he studied with Donald Dike, Cecil Lang, Philip Booth and Delmore Schwartz. He is retired from college teaching and lives in Katonah, New York, with his wife Eileen Allman, a Shakespearean scholar and writer. He has published eight book-length collection of poetry, and his first book, Walking Four Ways in the Wind, was published in the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets in 1979. New Directions published a number of his books, including Allman's first fiction collection, Descending Fire & Other Stories (1994). Quale Press published a collection of his prose poems, Algorithms, in 2012.

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