Sunday, November 05, 2006

Robert Allen 1946-2006

Writer, teacher, editor, mentor, and dear friend, Robert Allen, died on Friday, November 3 2006. He was the author of nine collections of poetry, three novels, and one collection of short fiction. His most recent book was the brilliant long poem, The Encantadas, published just this spring by Conundrum. Without a doubt, The Encantadas is one of the best Canadian poetry books ever published.

Rob taught young writers to use their curiosity, irreverence and defiance to their advantage and to follow their own literary interests without apology. And most unique, he always treated his students as fellow writers. If you were a student of Robert Allen’s, you were driven to make him proud and prove him right.

As a friend, Rob was always patient, thoughtful, and generous. He loved to share a bottle of good scotch, a cigarette, a story, a road trip. He would always provide counsel and he was always right. His wisdom was an invaluable gift to those who loved him. I first met Rob when I was an exasperated young student at Concordia. Frustrated and hurt for some reason, I marched into his office and told him I was going to jump off a bridge if he didn't help me. He laughed at me and then he helped me. Throughout the seven years I knew Rob, he never stopped helping me and never stopped laughing at me. He showed his faith in me by letting me help him run Matrix magazine and giving me the opportunity to edit books and work with authors. Rob helped me become a better writer and a better person. I will always be grateful for his friendship.

For the last three weeks of his life, he spent countless hours with family and friends, sharing stories. I was honoured to be with Rob these last three weeks and to have the opportunity to tell how much I loved him before he left us. On Friday, he died with his son, Cary, and his dear friend Anne Stone at his side. The room was warm and full of love. He will be greatly missed.


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Anonymous said...

My condolences, Jon. I didn't know Rob well, but I did like him and know how important he was to a lot of people. I'd heard of his illness, but had no idea it was so far along until a few nights ago. It hardly seems possible to me since the last time I saw him he wasn't sick. Well, what does one say? I'm sorry for your loss.

Daniel Sendecki said...

A friend from work just brought my attention to Robert Allen's passing. Like Zach, I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but realize from those who had that he will be greatly missed.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reading his 'Encantadas' -- a beautiful book.

My condolences.

Anonymous said...

I first met Rob Allen in the late 1970s. Can I share some favorite memories?

Did anyone out there hear of the time Rob lost all his money in Atlantic City, and sold the hood off his VW Jetta at a junkyard to raise enough capital to get back to Montreal, to which he returned hoodless, but dignity (of course) intact?

I was once plucking hopelessly at my old, cheap, and tuneless left- hand Fender acoustic guitar. Rob watched awhile, then asked if he could try it. He tuned it for a few seconds, and then, playing right handed, chording Upside Down, proceeded to play and sing, in a soaring, note/pitch perfect voice, Neil Young's "I am a Child". I will never forget that moment.

I miss him so much. He was the father of my nephew, and I loved him dearly.

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