Judy Grahn

American poet

Judy Grahn (born July 28, 1940) is an American poet and author. She teaches women's mythology and ancient literature at the California Institute for Integral Studies and other institutions.

Quotes edit

  • purple is of the spirit and denotes a change from one world or life position to another. In recent times, the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 marked the greatest single change in the American economic and political viewpoint since the time of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt fifty years earlier. And the fashion industry responded in kind, reflecting 1981 as a year of change by coming out with racks of clothes for men and women that featured every shade and hue of purple.
    • Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds (1985)

Interview (2021) edit

  • I came into civil rights and feminist consciousness in the middle of the American war on Vietnam, and the police and FBI war on the Black Power and nonviolent civil rights movements. I experienced the violence at People’s Park and at Altamont, and the news reports of the assassination of Harvey Milk in San Francisco, and the mass murder of nine hundred mostly African American men women and children by a trusted white man at Jonestown. The Left seemed paralyzed, while the Right moved into more overt white supremacy and homophobia. And religious fundamentalism, already excluding and punishing LGBT+ people, became more aggressive and threatening. Meanwhile Rachel Carson told us we faced a “silent spring” if we did not change our economic and philosophical habits. The world, my friends and I decided, was lacking in mother love, at both the local, personal level, and the macro, religious and ethical level. A large number of us went looking for the goddess, among other things, any goddess who might give us a handle on establishing love, compassion and a maternal way of solving problems, as guiding principles.
  • The burning questions of my life have been to discern what obstacles prevent me and the people I love—“wounded communities” I sometimes say, though they are also vibrantly alive and creative—from living fully engaged, accepted, lives. This has meant changing attitudes and practices in psychiatry, the military, police, families, the public, the law—toward women, LGBTQI, BIPOC people, and nature. What can I do to further these changes?
  • In particular, I’m occupied by addressing the roots of oppressive conditions, the origins of outdated and harmful ideas and practices.
  • The texts themselves must be addressed, and now that the ancient mythology that directly impacted the Abrahamic texts is available, it is clear that initially women had sacred place/office, with numerous goddesses who were powerful creation deities. Inanna has a female goddess companion who is as close to her as the male lover of King Gilgamesh was to him. The research of Will Roscoe and others has made clear that homosexual and transgender people held sacred office and participated in her rituals. And Inanna is both immanent within, and protective of, nature. Her radiant powers are erotic and interactive, accessible and creative. Her stories are richly psychological.

Quotes about Judy Grahn edit

  • Among them the most important single influence on my work at present-and for the last couple of years-has been Judy Grahn. In her poetry she works for clarity and she works for ease of comprehensibility so that anybody walking into your reading can understand what you're saying and anybody who picks up the book can understand what you're saying. She's taught me a great deal about doing that and simplifying the structures that are so ridiculously obscure. Some of the changes you've noticed in my work come directly from studying her work as well as living with her. I wrote "Recuerdo," and "Los Angeles 1980" and "Laguna Ladies Luncheon" before I met her, so I was moving in that direction. But it's like she jumped it up.
  • I found out that Santa Teresa was sent to the convent by her father because they caught her kissing a woman cousin. I had been reading Judy Grahn's poem "I Have Come to Claim Marilyn Monroe's Body," and at the same time I was reading about what happened to Teresa's body: how they dug her up, how people had taken different pieces of her, and how her body did not really belong to her but to the Church. I started making the connection with what happens to women's bodies now.
  • Judy Grahn traced the probable origin of the word "dyke" in the English language to Boudica, the warrior queen of the Celtic tribes who led a fierce uprising against the Roman conquest of the British Isles in 61 C.E.
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • In her study of gay culture, Another Mother Tongue, Judy Grahn envisions the women warriors in the lesbian tradition from antiquity to the persecution of lesbians in the U.S. armed forces since World War II. Grahn begins her odyssey of the lesbian warrior with the Celtic queen Boudica. Grahn disclosed details of the Amazon peoples on the European and African continents, who lived circa 3000 B.C.E. The oldest of these peoples were Libyan in northwest Africa who "were known not only as warriors but as founders of cities," most of which were named after their female generals, such as Myrine, Mytilene, Elaia, Anaia, Gryneia, Kyme. "At the city of Ephesus the Amazons established a shrine and magnificent statue to the Goddess Artemis." Included in this section of Grahn's book is a description of one of the many horrific witch-hunts of lesbians in the U.S. army in modern times. This ended in Grahn's discharge in 1960. "Military authority," she writes, "rules by the breaking of pride and dignity as much as by any threat of bodily harm. Nor can anyone humiliate you as deeply as your own." Describing this period in her life, Grahn continues: "Discharged into a poor area of Washington, D.C., with $80 and utter demoralization... I found that despair has no bottom; it can multiply itself indefinitely, inside the mind and outside. . . . I thrashed about at the bottom of the well of degradation among the more demoralized of America's people.... But I had to put the pieces of my life back together somehow." Grahn emerged from this time "fighting, studying, making notes on my own about Gay people I knew," embodying the warrior legacy she was soon to uncover in her search and make available to us.
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • poetry readings were incredible. I mean, people like Judy Grahn could bring 500 people to a reading.
  • In the women's consciousness-raising groups I belonged to in the early 1970s, we shared personal and very emotional stories of what it had really been like for us to live as women, examining our experiences with men and with other women in our families, sexual relationships, workplaces and schools, in the health care system and in surviving the general societal contempt and violence toward women. As we told our stories we found validation that our experiences and our reactions to them were common to many women, that our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings made sense to other women. We then used that shared experience as a source of authority. Where our lives did not match official knowledge, we trusted our lives and used the collective and mutually validated body of stories to critique those official versions of reality. This was theory born of an activist need, and the feminist literature we read, from articles like "The Politics of Housework" and "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" to the poetry of Susan Griffin, Marge Piercy, Alta, Judy Grahn, and others, rose out of the same mass phenomenon of truth-telling from personal knowledge.
  • I was not surprised by the reactions of women following my performance in Bloomington. One woman in the stage crew ran up and exclaimed, "They're standing up; they're giving you a standing ovation." the surprise in her voice told me that she had never seen a poetry performance; she had never felt the energy reverberate through a room with the Audre Lordes, Adrienne Richs, and Judy Grahns of this world. The glow in her face also told me that she would do so in the future.
    • Pat Parker "Poetry at Women's Music Festivals: Oil and Water" (1986) in The Complete Works of Pat Parker (2016)
  • In 1973 a lesbian-feminist press collective in Oakland published a long poem by a working-class lesbian, Judy Grahn. In "A Woman Is Talking to Death" Grahn gives chapter and verse to the "death" that is self-denial, accepted disempowerment, passivity, mutual betrayal. ("Death sits on my doorstep/ cleaning his revolver.") Stylistically it transits from a long, open narrative line to dialogue to blocks of prose to invocation, from linear anecdote to surreal images. What's notable is the freedom of line and voice, a colloquial diction with surges of intensity. A great public poem, emerging from a new and vital women's movement, expanding the political imaginary of Whitman and Duncan, enlarging the potentialities of gay and lesbian poetry. In sometimes raw urgency, it locates its voice in the class- and race-inflected lives of everyday "common women"...Grahn herself wrote of the poem: "The particular challenges... for me were ... the criss-cross oppressions which... continually divide us-and how to define a lesbian life within the context of other people in the world. I did not realize at the time that I was also taking up the subject of heroes in a modern life which for many people is more like a war than not, or that I would begin a redefinition for myself of the subject of love.
    • Adrienne Rich "Candidates for My Love" in A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, 1997-2008 (2009)

External links edit

Wikipedia has an article about: