cover image Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling: New and Selected Poems

Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling: New and Selected Poems

Judy Grahn, . . Red Hen, $21.95 (268pp) ISBN 978-1-59709-121-3

One of the first American poets to celebrate radical feminism and lesbian desire without apology or disguise, the California-based Grahn has been known for that work ever since: The Common Woman Poems (1972) earned grassroots admiration and subcultural cachet for such portraits as “Carol, in the park, chewing on straws,” who “has taken a woman lover,” who “goes as far/ as women can go without protection/ from men.” Here are Grahn's famous poems again, both the direct Movement poetry of the 1970s and the 1980s verse derived from feminist rereadings of myth. Two sequences about Helen of Troy are, at their best, at once comic, demotic and sexy, not to mention sexually explicit. Grahn's prefaces (to the whole volume, then to each segment) strike oddly boastful notes: “I am conscientiously criss-crossing time and space barriers,” she says of her Helen poems. “So I have intended to shatter the myth.” Her poems can seem rough, raw, intentionally unfinished, meant less for the printed page than for the voice or for the stage. Young readers will have no trouble imagining how much of an inspiration these lines might have been. Just 21 pages hold work from the past 20 years. This is an energetic look at Grahn's eventful career. (Jan.)