INDIVIDUAL - SCAD ID - #109
Greenville County, SC
Gilbert Allen is the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature Emeritus at Furman University. He has published seven collections of poems and two collections of short stories. He was elected to the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2014.
I write both poetry and prose fiction. I find these genres equally challenging, but in different ways. In poems, language is usually in the foreground. It’s like a lens that colors everything readers see. In short stories and novels, language is often more like a clear window that readers don’t notice unless they make a conscious effort to do so. That’s what “getting lost in a book” means. Readers get so drawn into the world depicted on the page that they forget they’re perceiving it through language.
Most poems–especially in the 21st century–tend to be either lyrics or short narratives. And most poets write with the expectation that their best readers will also be re-readers. That is, if those readers are intrigued by a poem, they’ll go through it several times until they understand it to their satisfaction. They won’t worry if it seems unclear the first time through. Most novelists, on the other hand, suspect that the vast majority of their readers will encounter the text only once, and they revise accordingly.
I keep these distinctions in mind when I write my own poems and stories. My poems are quite various, in form, subject matter, and tone. Some are in free verse, and some are in meter and rhyme. Some are set in the present day, and some are historically based. Some are playful, and some are deadly serious. My short stories, on the other hand, are set almost exclusively in a gated enclave in upstate South Carolina that I call Belladonna, and they chronicle the adventures of a recurring cast of characters.