Rochelle Owens: New and Selected Poems 1961-1996

Rochelle Owens, Author Junction Press $20 (192p) ISBN 978-1-881523-06-2
Although well known as a playwright, Owens is yet another talented poet who has not received her due because her poems are neither easy nor easily classifiable. Owens is, firstly, a political poet. She presents readers with reconstructed and sometimes wholly imagined ""historical"" events in an attempt to expose what she feels has been neglected or overlooked. Thus in ""Luca: Discourse on Life and Death,"" Owens's most recent (and most accomplished) work, the reader is confronted with an extensive investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's atelier during the composition of Mona Lisa. Both the artistic processes and the human relationships involved are dissected in writing that is playfully anachronistic and critically insightful: ""Lenny"" observes the ""color of mistrust around your floating// smile I am holding// immediacy of the sketch fueling/ you// I should not jump the gun maneuvering/ this text.... I paid a heavy debt."" This is emphatically not autobiographical poetry. Owens is fascinated by character, and many of her poems are in ""voices"": Karl Marx, the Queen of Greece, a certain King Lugalannemundu and many others make appearances. This ventriloquism is both Owens's strength and her weakness: while the voices add life, they also dominate formally and thematically, often to the exclusion of poetic argument. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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