1975 Margins Symposium
on Rochelle Owens

When many people praise someone as being "ahead of their time," they usually don't mean it. People who really are ahead of their time tend to be disconcerting, an embarrasment to people who are less inventive, and usually don't get the credit they deserve.

Rochelle Owens is one of those people who has had an uncanny knack for being truely ahead of her time. In the early sixties, she foreshadowed several literary movements that followed at least a decade later. In addition to her literary inventiveness, she asserted her complete and unmitigated individuality alone, without a support network or model, or precedent, in a male dominated milieu so ferociously sexist it may be difficult for some to imagine today, even, ironically, some of those old enough to remember it.

By the mid 70s, she had charted a great deal of new territory. She seemed to be in a period of synthesis, and so did American poetry. I edited a symposium on her work which was published in 1975 as part of a series I did for Margins magazine. The first four contributions to the present gathering come from that issue of Margins. The next four were written after the symposium.

It's interesting for me to note how much Rochelle was still ahead of her time in the mid 70s, though in areas I couldn't have perceived and which remain to be seriously considered. One is the way she foreshadowed a number of varieties of punk rock. Closer to literary lineages is her affinities with slam poetry. It seems unlikely that she'll write lyrics for punk groups, but I can hope that at least some slammers will discover that her art is closer to theirs than that of the more reserved beats-who-wore-khakis.

What affinities will the arts 20 years in the future share with what Rochelle is doing now? Well, whatever they may be, they may very well be chronicled in some medium that has superceded the internet and the world wide web.