Главная > Реферат >Остальные работы
Mary J. Carruthers
Judy Grahn (b. 1940) is a love poet too, although her poetry is not particularly
erotic. The Work of a Common Woman is sensual, but celebrates sweat and hard work
rather than sexual play. Grahn is a "working-class poet," but she is neither a
socialist-realist nor a slumming idealist. "Commonness" to her is not a new kind
of exclusivity, for her "common woman" is Everywoman, that which is ordinary and
common and binds women together. She is a love poet in the traditions of Whitman,
Ginsberg, cummings, with more than a little bit of Gertrude Stein. Grahn borrows many of
their repetitive, incantatory techniques, but transmutes them to celebrate the energy
common to women in their diverse work.
[. . . ]
Her sensualness occurs in the dance-like, ritualistic patterns of much of her poetry.
She seems able to find songs or enchantments in virtually every aspect of the language of
women. "She Who," a group of diverse pieces which Grahn has recorded as well as
published, contains a birth chant made from the midwife’s instructions during natural
childbirth, a funeral rite, an exorcism of all the hateful names that men have called
women, a liturgy of heroic women evoked to give energy and to heal. These rituals,
designed as Grahn writes, to make "our poetry what it should be and once was:
specific, scientific, valuable, of real use," are interspersed with fables and exempla,
the whole sequence resembling a Book of Common Prayer for women. Holding it all
together is the powerfully evocative, syntactically polypositional "She Who."
These poems are social activities, designed to replicate in readers, especially through
reading aloud, the ideal of Lesbian civility.
Her most interesting and ambitious poem is the meditation, "A Woman is Talking to
Death." Grahn has always insisted in her poems on what is factual, plain and simple.
There are no obvious metaphors or myths. She has said of her early sequence, "The
Common Woman": "I wanted to accentuate the strengths of their persons without
being false about the facts of their lives." Of "A Woman is Talking to
Death" she wrote, "This poem is as factual as I could possibly make it."
The precise description of a fatal accident involving a motorcycle and an automobile on
the Bay Bridge becomes an extended meditation on the futility of trying to work within a
society fascinated by destruction. The poem clarifies sharply what women know of the
difference between love and death; as Grahn says of it, it began "a redefinition for
myself of the subject of love."
[. . . ]
Grahn idealizes but does not sentimentalize the Lesbian bond, because she makes us
aware of the facts of aloneness, the penalties of her choice, and the tenuousness of her
dream. She is also tough in rejecting the false securities and illusory paradises that
romantic idealism produces. Grahn does not look to others to teach her love; her love
comes with integrity. Love is a disciplined school of self-knowledge, self-evaluation,
learned through the world of work and fact. It is that discipline which underlies the
apocalyptic dream defined in "A Woman is Talking to Death" . . .
from "The Re-Vision of the Muse: Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Judy Grahn, Olga
Broumas." The Hudson Review. Summer 1983, 36:2.
Amitai F. Avi-ram
Poetry is what someone makes when she desires to hear a certain language and
cannot already hear it in the world. To this Judy Grahn testifies in an
interview: "I suddenly wanted something to read about women, but I couldn’t
find anything" (Yalom and Davis, 1983). Poetry satisfies the deesire for
new linguistic experience, experience that can only be dreamed by the poet
before she begins to work. Yet this new language is never purely new: it is made
out of repetition, both internally in its formal devices, figures, and
themes, and in echoing the language outside of and prior to it. For a poet like
feminist Judy Grahn, who is dissatisfied not only with the language already in
the world but also with the world itself, poetry can alter through language the
relations between the audience and the world by transforming the meanings of
words and symbols and thus how we experience them. On the one hand, poetry like
Grahn’s moves toward something new and opposes repetition of what is dangerous,
painful, inhuman in the world and its language; on the other hand, a poem like A
Woman is Talking to Death must do its work largely by repeating what already
exists. The poem’s title enacts this process in miniature, playing upon a figure
of speech that at once invokes a stereotype about women’s speech (i.e., talking
endlessly), and signals both a commitment to language (talking until death,
until the very end) and a larger, even mythical, meditation about ultimate
meaning in which Death is addressed directly; that it is a woman talking
to Death is unexpected and turns the hackneyed phrase inside out. New meaning
thus arises out of language that is familiar. Transformation, then, depends upon
the politics of repetition and refrain, mimicking in language the transformation
of the material world sought by the feminist movement at large.
This is the paradox for the feminist writer: how to use what exists to create
what is new. In Grahn’s work, the paradox goes deeper. Formally and
symbolically, A Woman is Talking to Death is structured around
repetitions that generally work as the very mechanism that engages the reader
and offers pleasure in the face of the uncanny. Thematically, it is the material
of violence and prejudice that we find repeated. If the poem were not words but
actions, we might say that we were witnessing its uncontrollable compulsion to
repeat, a compulsion that would reveal its drive toward death. But because the
poem is made out of words, its thematic repetitions make conscious the very
pattern of violence that the larger culture is already repeating compulsively in
action; and the formal, verbal repetitions further serve to transform the
meanings of those words and our relation to them from an unconscious complicity
with violence toward a position in which we may begin to free ourselves from its
chains. A Woman is Talking to Death thus works socially upon its
audience: Grahn’s poem, in other words, is a liberating therapy for a society
that is trapped in illness.
Adrienne Rich has pointed out how well Grahn’s work transforms language, and
the important difference between transformation?which is a real change in our
psychic, social, and physical relations?and revolution?which is the
replacement of one empowered group by another without necessarily transforming
the essential power structure. In an essay on four lesbian poets including Grahn,
Mary J. Carruthers rightly observes the connection between Grahn’s
"repetitive, incantatory techniques" and the "traditions of
Whitman, Ginsberg, cummings, with more than a little of Gertrude Stein,"
and notes how she "transmutes them to celebrate the energy common to women
in their diverse work." I suggest that this transformation is also
ideological. For listeners, the refrains and repetitions bring about a new
relation to prejudice and violence, as they work to release us from the
oppressions we use against each other and which continually divide us; and they
enact a process of empathy and growth. Grahn’s use of repetition is also in
certain ways representative of feminist writers in general: repetition and
transformation occur with fair frequency, for example, in the work of writers as
diverse as Rich, Audre Lorde, Pat Parker, Helene Cixous, Gertrude Stein, and
Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
from "The Politics of Refrain in Judy Grahn’s A Woman Is Talking to
Death." Women and Language 10.2 (Spring 1987).
JUDY GRAHN: THE UNCOMMON COMMON WOMAN
by Michael Davidson
The ability to read Joanne Kyger’s or Helen Adam’s work in
feminist terms has been aided by a more activist posture developed among women writers
during the late 1960s. In the San Francisco Bay Area, this period saw the appearance of
important new reading spaces, publishers, and distributors of women’s literature: Alta
began Shameless Hussy Press, the first women’s press in the area; Susan Griffin
coordinated a large conference on women poets for the University of California Extension;
Joanna Griffin and Sande Fini opened a series of readings and performances at a Berkeley
bar called The Bacchanall; the San Francisco State College Women’s Caucus began to hold
readings in the Noe Valley; and perhaps most important, the Women’s Press Collective was
established by Judy Grahn in 1969. Although many of these events occurred after the period
with which this book is concerned, they were empowered, to a certain extent, by tendencies
already present in the San Francisco Renaissance.
For a lesbian poet like Judy Grahn, the historical fact of gay writing – as well as the
city’s relative openness to alternative social and sexual preferences – was no small
component in the development of her poetics. Although Grahn was not associated directly
with the San Francisco Renaissance, her literary voice derives, in many respects, from the
populist mode of the Beats. It is hard to imagine works like "The Psychoanalysis of
Edward the Dyke" or "Elephant Poem" without thinking of Lawrence
Ferlinghetti’s satiric portraits of alienated fifties life or the comic, quasi-surreal
poems of Allen Ginsberg or Gregory Corso. The strength of Grahn’s early poetry depends on
the odd combination of humor and anger that gives a work like "Howl" its special
If the literary formation of Judy Grahn’s work rests in the populist mode of the Beats,
its social formation rests in the women’s movement and, more specifically, in San
Francisco’s long homophile tradition, going back to the prewar years. The city had long
been a haven for homosexuals and lesbians, and although the community was often threatened
by the homophobic public, it always had a social and even political force in the larger
demographics. Important gay political groups like the Matachine Society, the Daughters of
Bilitus, and (later) The Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club had substantial memberships in
San Francisco from their inception, and with the emergence of a gay liberation movement in
the post-Stonewall era, the city became, as John D’Emilio says, "for gay men and for
lesbians … what Rome is for Catholics."
To a large extent, the permission for the San Francisco gay community to come out of
the closet and become an active force in the city was granted during the period that this
book covers and by many of the same literary events. The fact that many San
Francisco poets were openly homosexual created the illusion – if not the fact – of
tolerance in the city. Allen Ginsberg’s "Howl" censorship trial,
publications by Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, James Broughton, and Robin Blaser, and even
Jack Kerouac’s novels brought national attention to a city where variant sexual modes were
possible. But as I have pointed out with reference to the Spicer circle, such permission
was given within a largely male, homosexual community that remained closed or even hostile
to women. Denise Levertov’s "Hypocrite Women" was written in response not only
to Jack Spicer’s misogyny, but to the closed, homosexual circle he supported. It remained
for the women’s movement and its lesbian feminist component to open a new possibility for
a gay women’s poetry. Judy Grahn as much as anyone helped to create this possibility.
In order to create a gay women’s poetry it was necessary to create a woman not totally
defined within male, heterosexual stereotypes. Judy Grahn’s early work involved the
creation of what she called "the common woman," a figure whose power is
repressed and whose beauty is masked behind social conventions. At the same time,
Grahn must resuscitate the common woman from the uncommon woman, that objectified
embodiment of male desire. As she says in her poem to Marilyn Monroe, "I have come to
claim / Marilyn Monroe’s body / for the sake of my own." Grahn must discover this
woman from within a world that has not provided her with a name; hence many of the poems
appear to be litanies for "she who" has no identity at all:
the woman whose head is on fire
the woman with a noisy voice
the woman with too many fingers
the woman who never smiled once in her life
the woman with a boney body
the woman with moles all over her
These incantatory passages suggest a communal forum in which repetition serves to unite
and join, even as it differentiates.
Coinciding with the invention of a new woman is Grahn’s archaeological interest in the
origins of gay culture. This task is given explicit form in her book Another Mother
Tongue, which explores archaic sources of homosexuality and lesbianism in what amounts
to a popular ethnology of homoerotic culture. It is "culture" that Grahn is most
concerned with: that of women, and that of lesbians specifically. As one of the founders
of the gay women’s liberation movement on the West, Coast, she has been acutely interested
in what is specific to gay life: its informing myths, stereotypes, and communal signs. Her
archaeological task involves exploring the words by which gays are marginalized -
"butch," "fay," "queer," "dyke," – and finding
their tribal or cultic origins, thus resuscitating from a despised language a new
language of opposition and authority. If her historical scholarship is sometimes suspect,
relying as it does on a good deal of artful speculation, it recognizes the difficulty of
such ethnology: that any history of gay culture must rely on an idiom constantly under
transformation, an idiom that mirrors at the same time as it satirizes the heterosexual
Grahn performs her archaeological work with a good deal of humor, using it to debunk
certain stereotypes of gayness, both those of the straight world and those in the gay
community itself. In her story "The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke," she
- On Lesbian Poetry Essay, Research Paper Mary J. Carruthers This essay chiefly considers four volumes ... Muse: Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Judy Grahn, Olga Broumas." Carruthers’ "Lesbian ... much criticism about lesbian literature—and especially about poetry—has ...
- Musicals Essay, Research Paper As ... 1935), Rudolf Friml's Rose Marie (1936), and Sigmund ... team, starting with Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein's ... Hayworth. Directors George Abbott and Stanley Donen teamed ... Rose's Jumbo (1962). Judy Garland made her farewell ...
- ... Of Philippine Cinema Essay, Research Paper Introduction The youngest ... made a film in 1912 about Jose Rizal?s execution, the ... Filipino melodrama. The Virgin Mary became the ?all-suffering, ... Judy and Wowie?. The bomba film is still present, now having grown ...
- ... Death Penalty Essay, Research Paper “The question ... Smith), a woman named Judy Weyer was coached by ... . Clearly, this German immigrant was wrongly convicted ... they are not worried about repercussions, as a ... in Hampton v. Allgood, Mary Kay Hampton “was frightened ...
- ... uncertainty. As for grown men in this society ... American Women (1991), about her visit to a ... to stop blaming each other for their unhappiness ... Talese,1996. Katzenstein, Mary Fainsod and Carol McClurg Mueller ... Press, 1987. Mann, Judy. The Difference: Growing up ...