Oral History Project

Oral History Interview with Reverend Michael Allen

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The Poetry Project’s Managing Director, Nicole Wallace, and Volunteer Archivist, Will Edmiston, interviewed Rev. Michael Allen via telephone on February 18, 2012. Allen was the Rector of St. Mark’s Church from 1959-1970. As Rector, he upheld the long-standing tradition at St. Mark’s of welcoming artists of all genres to perform at the church, and believed that artists “were among the few…doing theology.” This engagement in the arts was formalized in 1966 when Allen agreed to help administer a federal grant through St. Mark’s Church which launched The Poetry Project, Theater Genesis and The Film Project. Michael Allen passed away in September of 2013 at the age of 85.

Michael Allen

Michael Allen was born on Oct. 16, 1927, in Paris. He lived in France and Spain until he was 6, and then moved to the U.S. He graduated from what is now the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. Then he went to New York as an assistant priest at Grace Church, and then was rector at St. Marks for 11 years. “He was a tireless crusader for justice, particularly in the lives of the poorest and most marginalized among us,” wrote Rev. Mike Kinman, who succeeded Rev. Allen at Christ Church Cathedral. Read more about Allen at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.