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. have 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 have served as inspiration for other poetry books, including Pirate’s Song, and Combing the Waves. To date, she's published over 17 poetry books, chapbooks, and e-books, most recently Balancing Acts from Marsh Hawk Press and Beggars at the Wall from Ikon.
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. Since 2001, she's been focussed mainly on prose poems, often based on news stories, which provide a natural if somewhat cockeyed link between poetry and fiction.
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 which 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. Novels currently in progress examine other aspects of problematic personalities. And, in terms of what some would consider "problematic" personalities, a large thrust of her work over the past decade has been researching and editing the anthology Bearing Life: Women’s Writing on Childlessness.
Over the years her ouvre has expanded to include short stories, memoirs, articles, criticism, visual work, and editing, while poetry remains a firm, and continual, base.