Born in Adelaide, Australia, Jan Owen studied arts at the University of Adelaide, where she earned her BA. She raised her children and worked as a librarian, tutoring in the Library Studies Department at the South Australian Institute of Technology, before turning to her own writing. Her poetry collections include Boy with Telescope (1986), winner of the Anne Elder Award and the Mary Gilmore Award; Fingerprints on Light (1990); Night Rainbows (1994); Eating Durian (2002); Timedancing (2002); Poems 1980–2008 (2008); and the CD Laughing in Greek (2010).

Intellectually curious and wide ranging in her work, Owen contemplates family, travel, history, and childhood in both free verse and traditional forms. The Australian Poetry Review described her work as moving “from the microscopic to the cosmic; from the present to the past (and vice versa); from the local to the exotic; from the abstract to the embodied and from the act of representing to the act of meditating.”

Owen has received the Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize, the Max Harris Award, and the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize. She has traveled widely and was a fellow at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. She has also participated in Festival International de la Poésie at Trois Rivières in Québec.