Richard Owens (poet)

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Richard Owens
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BornAugust 6, 1973
CitizenshipUnited States of America

Richard Owens (August 6, 1973) is an American poet.[1] Known also for his work as a critic, drummer, and printmaker, he is founding editor of the small press literary journal Damn the Caesars and co-founder of the left-wing punk band Those Unknown.[2] His poetic work appears in several volumes, including Delaware Memoranda (2008), No Class (2012), Ballads (2012; 2015), and the collected volume Poems (2019).[3] A number of his literary essays, most of which earlier appeared in scholarly and small press publications, are included in the collection Sauvage: Essays on Anglophone Poetry (2019).


From 1989 through 1997 Owens played drums with Those Unknown, among the earliest left-wing Oi! bands in the US. Founded by Richard and brother Bill Owens in Sussex County, New Jersey, Those Unknown released a number of elapsed play and full length records on a number of independent labels and performed regularly with bands that included Ox Blood, Wretched Ones, The Templars (band), Niblick Henbane, the Trouble, and Pinkerton Thugs. Between 1994 and 1995 Owens recorded and toured with Brutally Familiar, a Connecticut-based anarcho-crust band, resulting in a release on Clean Plate Records.[4] Additionally, Owens contributed letters, columns, and feature-length articles to Maximumrocknroll from 1994 through 1999.[5]

Poetry and Criticism

Earning his PhD in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he studied under poet-critics Susan Howe and Steve McCaffery, Owens published his first book-length collection of poems, Delaware Memoranda, in 2008.[6] Subsequent collections include Ballads (2012) and No Class (2012), both of which extend from Owens's earlier work in music, balladry, and folk culture. In the Winter 2016 issue of Chicago Review Owens published "Circuits of Reciprocity: Folk Culture, Class Politics, and Contemporary Ballad Writing," an essay which clearly outlines his position on balladry and folk culture as class-specific, deeply political and socially influential practices.[7]

Editing and Printmaking

As an editor, Owens has followed poet Barrett Watten's claim, "Editing is act."[8] Focusing on Marxist and other radical poetries, from 2005 onward Owens has edited the poetry and poetics journal Damn the Caesars under the Punch Press imprint through which he also prints and publishes individual volumes by poets from across the US, UK, and elsewhere.[9] Working in a variety of mediums that include letterpress, silkscreen, and digital printing methods, Owens has designed, hand-printed, and discretely distributed in small runs work by poets that include Sean Bonney, Jo L. Walton, David Grundy, Kent Johnson, Frances Kruk, Luke Roberts, Samantha Walton, and many others.

As a printmaker, Owens was formally trained from 1987-1991 in commercial art and graphic design at Sussex County Vocational and Technical School, Sparta, New Jersey. From 2006 until 2010 Owens printed alongside poets Michael Cross, David Hadbawnik, Andrew Rippeon, and Kyle Schlesinger on a Vandercook 4 proof press housed at the Center for the Arts, SUNY-Buffalo.[10] Beginning in 2010, Owens has printed on an unmotorized Vandercook 1 proof press using a variety of brayer-based hand-inking methods.[11] His print work is maintained in a number of special collections, including the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, and the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo.[12]

Selected Bibliography



  • "Circuits of Reciprocity: Folk Culture, Class Politics, and Contemporary Ballad Writing." Chicago Review 60:02 (2016): 78-90.
  • Sauvage: Essays on Anglophone Poetry. Buffalo, NY: BlazeVox, 2019.

Selected Discography (Those Unknown)

Elapsed Play

  • Those Unknown. 7” ep. 33rpm. Midland Park, NJ: Headache Records, 1991.
  • Going Strong. 7” ep. 33rpm. Midland Park, NJ: Headache Records, 1992.
  • Distribution. 7” ep. 45rpm. Sussex, NJ: Pogostick Records,1995.

Long Play

  • Those Unknown. CD. Atlanta, GA: GMM Records 1995.
  • Those Unknown. LP. 33rpm. Dinslaken, Germany: Knock Out Records, 1995.
  • Scraps. CD. San Francisco, CA: TKO Records, 2003.
  • Those Unknown. CD. San Francisco, CA: TKO Records, 2003.


  • The Only Spirit is Unity. 12” LP. Coburg, Germany: Dim Records, 1993.
  • American Headaches, 2. CD. Coburg, Germany: Dim Records, 1994.
  • Backstreets of American Oi!: Unreleased Anthems. CD. New York, NY: Sta Press Records, 1994.
  • Limited Options Sold as Noble Endeavors: Benefit Compilation. 10” EP. Minneapolis, MN: Half-Mast Recording Corporation, 1997.
  • Punch Drunk III. CD. San Francisco, CA: TKO Records, 2001.
  • Punch Drunk IV. CD. San Francisco, CA: TKO Records, 2002.


  1. Foundation, Poetry (2021-02-11). "Richard Owens". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  2. "Upcoming TKO Releases: Those Unknown, Strychnine, Boston Comp".
  3. "Owens, Richard []".
  4. Revolt – Brutally Familiar (1995, Vinyl), retrieved 2021-02-10
  5. "Bibliography". MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL. Retrieved 2021-02-10.
  6. "Delaware Memoranda". Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  7. OWENS, RICHARD (2016). "Circuits of Reciprocity: Folk Culture, Class Politics, and Contemporary Ballad Writing". Chicago Review. 60 (2): 78–90. ISSN 0009-3696.
  8. Andrews, Bruce; Bernstein, Charles (1984). The L. SIU Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-1106-4.
  9. "PUNCH PRESS". Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  10. Staff. "Poetry and Literature Calendar / A list of readings and workshops". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  11. "PUNCH PRESS". Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  12. ",exact,%20Owens,%20Richard,%201973-,AND&tab=everything&search_scope=everything&vid=HVD2&facet=creator,exact,%20Owens,%20Richard,%201973-&lang=en_US&mode=advanced&offset=0". Retrieved 2021-02-16. External link in |title= (help)

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