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Jan Owen (1940 – )

Jan Owen was born in Adelaide in 1940. She was educated at Presbyterian Girls’ College in Adelaide and Ruyton Girls’ School in Melbourne. On leaving school she worked first as a laboratory assistant, then studied Arts at the University of Adelaide part-time, completing a BA in 1963 and an MA (Qualifying) in 1974. Between 1961 and 1984 she worked on and off as a librarian while also raising a family, and she tutored in the Library Studies department of the South Australian Institute of Technology from 1980–1983. She began writing in her late thirties, after her three children had all reached school age. Since 1985, she has worked mainly as a full-time writer, teacher of creative writing, and editor. In this time she has frequently been involved with poetry workshops and readings, and has held various residencies, grants and fellowships, travelling to Europe on Australia Council fellowships in the early 1990s, and spending time as writer-in-residence at Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia, in 1997. She has been involved in the running of Adelaide Festival of Arts Writers’ Week, and was poetry editor of the National Library’s literary journal Voices in 1992-1993.

Owen began publishing her poetry in literary journals from the early 1980s, and a number of her early poems appearing in the anthologies of the Adelaide-based Friendly Street Poets collective. Her first poetry collection, Boy with a Telescope, won both the FAW Anne Elder Award (1986) and the ASAL Mary Gilmore Award (1987). She has since published six further collections, including the selection: Poems: 1980–2008 (2008). Her poetry has often sought to explore the relationship between art and experience, and art and science, and has been praised for its command of imagery and its capacity to show the processes through which language and art transforms our world.

Poetry Collections
  • Boy with a Telescope (North Ryde, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1986).
  • Fingerprints on Light (North Ryde, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1990).
  • Blackberry Season (Canberra: Molongo Press, 1993).
  • Night Rainbows (Port Melbourne, Vic: Heinemann, 1994).
  • Eating Durian and other Poems (Warners Bay, NSW: Picaro Press, 2002).
  • Timedancing (Woolongong, NSW: Five Islands Press, 2002).
  • Poems: 1980–2008 (Elwood, Vic: John Leonard Press, 2008).
  • Take Five (Nottingham, Shoestring Press, 2009).
  • De Kus en andere gedichten, translated by M. Elzinga and J. Veenbaas( Maastricht, Azul Press, 2010).
  • Laughing in Greek (CD)( Sydney,River Road Press, 2010). 
Suggested Further Reading
  • Jenny Digby, ‘See the World as Yourself,’ Island no. 65 (1995), pp. 38–51.
  • Martin Duwell, [review of Poems: 1980–2008 and Blackberry Season [2007]), Australian Poetry Review (1 August 2008), http://www.australianpoetryreview.com.au/0808owen.htm
  • David Gilbey, ‘Against the aajej,’ Australian Book Review no.304 (2008), p. 51.
  • Alan Gould, ‘Being Observant, Keeping Faith: Jan Owen’s Telescope,’ in The Totem Ship (Hahndorf, SA: D&S, 1996), pp. 242–47.
  • Penelope Nelson, 'Poems of Quiet Magic,' Quadrant, September 2008, pp. 116 - 117.
  • Jan Owen, ‘A Parallel Music: Translating Baudelaire,’ Southerly 63.1 (2003), pp. 195–200.
  • Geoff Page, ‘Jan Owen,’ A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 221–25.
  • Angela Rockel, ‘The Poetry Process: Jan Owen Talks to Angela Rockel about Writing,’ Famous Reporter no. 8 (1993), pp. 51–57. http://walleahpress.com.au/int-owen.html
  • Angela Rockel, ‘Review: Jan Owen: Poems 1980–2008,’ Famous Reporter no. 38 (2009), pp. 9–12. http://walleahpress.com.au/FR38Rockel.html
  • Shirley Walker, [untitled review of Blackberry Season], Westerly 40.2 (1995), pp. 82–86.