About Rochelle Ratner(1948-2008)
Rochelle Ratner began writing poetry as a high school student and continued writing in isolation for the next five years. In the fall of 1969, shortly before her 21st birthday, she moved to New York City and, for the first time, had exposure to poetry workshops and the first-hand critiques of her contemporaries. Her first volume of poetry, A Birthday of Waters, was published in 1971.
Her childhood experiences in Atlantic City, N.J. played a large role in much of her writing. The landscape and tenor of the deteriorating resort in the 1950s and 1960s before gambling was legalized form the backdrop for her first novel, Bobby’s Girl, as well as the poems in Sea Air in a Grave Ground Hog Turns Toward. The sea and beach served as inspiration for other poetry books, including Pirate’s Song, and Combing the Waves.
Increasingly throughout the 1970s, she experimented with serial forms in poetry, finding it more and more difficult to see individual poems as units complete in themselves. Finally, it became evident that only the larger format provided by an extended prose narrative could embody all the issues she hoped her writing would explore.
Her play, Kité Fami: My family has left me, based on the Salem Witch trials, was produced at The Studio For Creative Movement in New York City, March 1976, directed by Merle Lister. “Tellings,” a dramatic monologue based on poems written about her mother’s life, was performed at Theatre St. Clements in 1979.
During 1989-1990 she served as ghostwriter for three psychiatry books published by The PIA Press, on Manic Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Co-Dependency. Working on these books, concerned with the problems that survivors of psychological and/or sexual abuse face when they enter into adult love relationships, offered new insights into the characters available to her fiction. Her second novel, The Lion’s Share, is the story of a woman who, having been sexually molested as a ten-year-old, becomes involved in her first healthy relationship with a man at the age of thirty-four. Her novel Mother and Child further examines aspects of problematic personalities. And, in terms of what some would consider “problematic” personalities, a large thrust of her work during the 1990’s involved researching and editing the anthology Bearing Life: Women’s Writing on Childlessness.
Rochelle’s oeuvre expanded over the years to include short stories, memoirs, articles, criticism, and editing, while poetry remained a firm, and continual, base.
Additional biographical information can be found in Marquis Who’s Who in America, Marquis Who’s Who of American Women, Gale Research’s Contemporary Authors and various volumes published by the International Biographical Center, as well as in PreviewPort’s International Writers Index.
Photos © Copyright 1999 Marjorie Cohen