Born and raised in Chicago until her parents, a cook and a photographer's assistant, moved to New Mexico, Judy Grahn graduated from San Francisco State University and remained in the Bay Area thereafter. Early on she worked as a waitress, a short-order cook, a barmaid, an artist's model, a typesetter, and a nurse's aide. A serious illness placed her in a coma, but she recovered. Then she became both a writer and an activist, helping to found one of the first women's presses, working for prisoners' and welfare rights groups, participating in anti-rape campaigns, advocating on behalf of gay rights. She writes feminist, political, and lesbian poems distinguished at once by their strong cultural analysis and by their verbal and musical inventiveness. The musical changes rung in poems like "Plainsong" are as important to their message as any direct statements the poems make. Grahn has also written stories and essays.