Judy Grahn's life and work contrast markedly with H.D.'s. Born of another generation in 1940, Grahn’s writing has from the beginning eschewed tradition and disrupted notions of structure, expressing themes which celebrate lesbian culture, its endurance and danger, and issues of marginality and oppression and oppression of women. The images in her work, rather than expressing intense but abstract emotion, are those of what she calls "common women," flesh-and-blood persons whose lives reflect specific struggles and personalities. Her poetry includes prose dialogue, narrative, lyric, and drama, often in combination. In contrast to H.D.'s strict but supportive upbringing, Judy Grahn grew up in an atmosphere of potential disapproval. Her working-class background would have permitted no space for a young lesbian in the early 1960's, and she recalls her
utter isolation at sixteen, when I looked up Lesbian in the dictionary, having no one to ask about such things, terrified, elated, painfully self-aware, grateful it was there at all. Feeling the full weight of the social silence surrounding it, me, my unfolding life.
Her writing and her marginality led to a discharge from the Air Force because of her lesbianism; moreover, she experienced denials of jobs and housing, and was even "beaten in public for looking like a dike." As a woman writer and a lesbian, she had become doubly Other, a recognition which, instead of silencing her, radicalized and motivated her. By the late 1960's, she had helped found a gay women' s liberation movement and was publishing her work through independent women's presses. Unlike H.D., Grahn needed no male mentor to inscribe her, as Pound literally enscribed and created "H.D., lmagiste" at the beginning of her career. As a lesbian, Grahn was far removed from H.D's "romantic thralldom" and dependence on male approval. Rather, she had come of age and to an age in which a woman could proclaim,
I'm not a girl I'm a hatchet I'm not a hole I'm a whole mountain. (Work 25)
Despite these differences, H.D. and Judy Grahn share striking commonalities. Each has rejected poetic forms of the past to express a woman-centered vision.
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The horrors of World War I galvanized H.D.'s pacifism, as the Civil Rights, Anti-war, and Women's Movements galvanized Judy Grahn's commitment to justice. H.D. published her Trilogy, which condemned patriarchal structures which further war and violence, and revised the Christian myth to exalt a feminine spiritual presence. Grahn challenged the homophobic, misogynist, and racist culture of her day with her long poem, A Woman is Talking to Death in which she considered "the subject of heroes in a modem life which for many people is more like a war than not" (Work 112).
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Grahn' s challenges to culture, evident in her early work, find full expression in her two-part epic. The Queen of Wands exposes historical and contemporary oppression of women while at the same time weaving a woman-centered myth of the Spider Webster. In the Spider's web, history and pre-history converge to rewrite Helen's story, re-forming her into the Queen of Wands, the Flama, "Keeper of the Flame" of women's ancient knowledge, the "weaving tree" who weaves a story of female power, past and future. As Helen is a goddess in The Queen of Wands, she becomes a hero in The Queen of Swords, which retells the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna, who willingly descends and embraces Death, the dark goddess Ereshkigal, in order to ascend to her autonomy and heroism. By returning to a myth of quest which predates the myths and quests of warrior heroes, Grahn shows that a narrative of a female subject and her journey toward selfhood has simply been waiting for rediscovery.
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As women poets such as H.D., Judy Grahn and others embark into the unexplored landscape of a feminized quest, they open the door to the closed systems of the past by disrupting conventional forms; this is a "poetic revolution" indeed. These poets and their female heroes create narratives which move according to patterns which may refuse to "go somewhere" because that somewhere has already been mapped out and claimed by the male quester.
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The career of Judy Grahn has from the beginning paralleled and celebrated the struggles of women to redefine themselves as heroes. She describes her early writing as developing within an atmosphere of potential disapproval, fearing "that someone might see the scribbled notes in my pockets." This fear, which often accompanies women's attempts to claim authority and voice, was magnified by the specific danger inherent in Grahn's subject matter, which was "women in general and lesbians in particular" (24).