It Is An Apple: An Interview With Judy Grahn




Lisa L. Moore interviews Judy Grahn

It Is An Apple: An Interview With Judy Grahn

August 23rd, 2013 reset - +

JUDY GRAHN is one of the rare 20th-century American poets whose work precedes her: she is widely read yet her words have circulated, often anonymously, since the 1960s. Her series of verse portraits, “The Common Woman,” was published in 1969 and became the first popular ballad of the women’s movement. Its haunting final lines went viral before the internet — recited at rallies and meetings, on the radio, at concerts, in theaters, at battered women’s shelters, and in bookstores across the country:

the common woman is as common as the best of bread
and will rise
and will become strong — I swear it to you
I swear it to you on my own head
I swear it to you on my common
woman’s
head

Grahn’s satire, “The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke,” written in 1965 and first published in 1971, was a bold early critique of the treatment of LGBT people in the psychiatric profession. Written almost 50 years ago when a young Grahn had just been dishonorably discharged from the military for refusing to lie about being a lesbian, “Edward the Dyke” has been frequently republished and anthologized and remains as funny, true, and lifesaving today. Her 1974 masterpiece, “A Woman is Talking to Death,” brought Grahn attention beyond the women’s and gay liberation movements, as an important practitioner of the 20th-century long poem.

Born in 1940 in Chicago to working-class parents, at the age of eight Grahn moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where her father hoped to find work. Her parents were intermittently employed throughout her childhood, and her mother’s schizophrenia made home life difficult. But Grahn treasured both the heritage of poetry she encountered at home and at school — Sandburg, Robert Service, Robinson Jeffers, Poe, Donne, Coleridge — and the connection with the sacred and the non-human world she experienced in the mountains and deserts of southern New Mexico. After her military service in Washington, DC, came to an end, she moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where she threw herself into civil rights, workers rights, the women’s and gay liberation movements. She was a pioneer of the lesbian counterculture of the period, helping to establish collective households, one of the first women’s bookstores in the country (ICI: A Woman’s Place, in Oakland), the iconic Women’s Press Collective, and eventually a program in women’s spirituality housed at Sofia University in Palo Alto, where she teaches today. Her work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Book Review Award, the Before Columbus American Book Award, and the Stonewall Award. Since 1997, Triangle Publishers, after awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award, has issued an annual Judy Grahn Award in Lesbian Nonfiction. Recent publications include love belongs to those who do the feeling: New and Selected Poems 1966–2006 (Red Hen, 2008), The Judy Grahn Reader (Aunt Lute, 2009), and the riveting memoir, A Simple Revolution: The Making of An Activist Poet (Aunt Lute, 2012). Her online journal is Metaformia Journal at www.metaformia.org.

The following interview has been condensed and edited from our conversation of July 8, 2013.

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Lisa Moore: I wanted to start with one of your newer poems, “Mental,” which was published for the first time at full length in The Judy Grahn Reader.

Judy Grahn: There’s a whole segment of “Mental” that [singer-songwriter] Anne Carol [Mitchell] put to music [on the 2011 release Lunarchy]. We perform it live, including at a big outdoor reading that Poetry Flash sponsors every year in Berkeley. You know, we toured with Ani DiFranco! She told me that she read “A Woman is Talking to Death” when she was 19, and it just turned her around for what was possible.

LM: I see that influence in her lyrics for sure. I think she learned a lot from you.

JG: Well, and from our movement. So I was absolutely thrilled. I thought, what happened to that particular strain of poetic movement? It was so powerful — all the way through the ’80s — and then it appeared to vanish. I mean, I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure there were other people who felt the backlash surge of “Let’s just dump the feminist.”

LM: Yes, yes. That was definitely what happened in the ’80s and ’90s.

JG: Yes, but then I found that it was still living in two different places, and one of those was Ani DiFranco’s music — her lyrics and her verse — she’s just so amazing, such a dynamo — night after night on the stage. And then when I got online, I discovered that the poetry is online. So “A Woman is Talking to Death” is part of a quartet in Tasmania, as the libretto for some musical. It’s on a site in Singapore. It showed up in North Carolina as part of a punk rock band. So, you know, mainstream can do whatever it wants, but the kids, the people who know how to go around the mainstream, will always come back and say: this resonates with us, and we’re using it.

LM: Yes, your poems have an energy that carries them forward and speaks to people year after year, and decade after decade. I want to ask you about the musicality of your verse. I think one reason that your poetry lends itself to musical settings is because it’s so attuned to sound. In your memoir, you talk about being aware of the sounds of poems, the rhythm, and the sort of abstract sound of words as a very young child, and then as something you wanted to work on consciously when you were first beginning to write.

JG: Yes, you never stop working on craft. Changing rhythms, changing what I’m listening to. And listening to music — over and over again — that helps me — I was thinking, I haven’t credited musicians enough. We talked about Elton John, and his two songs, “Tiny Dancer,” and then that other one, “Levon.”

LM: Yeah, you listened to those over and over again?

JG: To write a novel, Mundane’s World, which has nothing to do with what Elton is doing (it’s eco-utopian), but somehow he put — it was like counting rosary beads or something — he just put my mind at ease and allowed me to go into that space. And Stevie Wonder, with [my poem] “The Queen Of Wands,” I just could not stay away from Songs in the Key of Life. Oh, I just adore it! But adoring is one thing; listening to it 23 hours a day for six months is something else.

LM: That changes you on a cellular level.

JG: Right, right, exactly. It’s sort of a kinesthetic way that music moves me, and I think that influences the poetry. I would have to say that because it’s just ridiculous to be so steeped in another artist’s work. (Laughs.) You know who it is right now?

LM: Who?

JG: Michelle Chamuel from The Voice. I love that woman’s music! I’ve downloaded every song I can get my hands on, and I can’t wait until she makes an album.

LM: Well, tell me what you feel like you’re responding to when you are connecting with an artist so viscerally.

JG: I think it’s a spiritual heart-place that certain songs, and certain artists’ voices hit, that will carry me emotionally, but it will also hit some spirit note that you just don’t get in everyday life. And that I want.

LM: Yes, yes, you do. And I do, too! Let’s talk about the movement of “Mental” — a poem that I admire so much, and return to again and again.

JG: No one has talked to me about it yet — not a single person!

LM: Now’s the time. Today’s the day. Obviously it has very strong subject matter. I’ve never seen another poem that speaks as well about taking care of people with mental illness and also taking care of one’s own proximity to mental illness, which might be one’s own mental illness, or might also be that blurring — you know, when you’re taking care of somebody, “Is she crazy? Am I crazy?” Or, as my friend Ann Cvetkovich says [in her book Depression: A Public Feeling], “Depression: it might be political.” You know, maybe the world is crazy, and that’s making us crazy.

JG: Exactly, exactly.

LM: So there’s that. But the way you shape it with the word “mental,” and then you have “monumental,” “instrumental,” “detrimental,” and you carry that repetition through this very long poem — it’s a nine-section poem. How did that come to you?

JG: It’s the only poetic device in the poem. Well, maybe I should say it’s the most conscious, deliberate artifact in the poem. There’s a mental component in our society that is overlooked. The people who make the decision to invade a country (that hasn’t actually done anything to one’s own country) and devastate that country and leave it in turmoil — that isn’t called insanity. What in hell else could be called insanity? Certainly not my mother’s visions and her idiosyncrasies. As a child of a schizophrenic, I was always having to question what was real. The parent was “off” from reality, and yet I came to appreciate that parent’s reality. It was not off the chart of human behavior. I’ve come to this marvelous position of understanding the entire human race as “mental” — as having mental diversities. It’s a study in neuro-diversity.

LM: A spiritual perspective helps with that, right?

JG:  It’s about having a shifting point of view — from the point of view of a forest, what is human sanity? From the point of view of a whale, what is human sanity? From the point of view of your cat, what is human sanity? Across the board, one group of people thinks the other is “insane” for things that are normal to the other group. It works both ways. And it starts to be this dance. The question then is, where is the ethics in it? Where are the moral limitations? What is the moral judgment one can make about certain forms of behavior? And I think that’s what the poem is about actually — that dance between two very complicated ideas. I couldn’t imagine how to say it except to tell some stories, and in doing so, plant the word “mental” in different kinds of words, different contexts, to just see what readers would make of it.

LM: What you said about the point of view of the tree, the point of view of the whale and the ethics of all of that: That’s a really great articulation of what people call eco-poetics. Do you consider yourself consciously involved in eco-poetics?

JG: You know, no, I haven’t paid much attention to it, but I’m delighted that there’s such a movement, and I’d love to be a part of it; I think I am a part of it. There’s a more recent poem that I wrote very consciously inclined in that direction: “Forest, forest.”  It’s an update of [Blake’s] “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright / In the forests of the night:”

Forest, forest burning brown
At the fulcrum of our flight.
Forest rabbit, human hound,
Caught in “all we love is light.”

It’s a line-for-line match, a response.

LM: Wow, eco-poetics for sure! Every line is beautifully shaped. In “Mental” too, there’s so much that goes into each line — from line lengths to line breaks to the white space in this poem:

sometimes you are just mad because no one
ever.    answers the door

The internal punctuation, the visual caesura — there’s so much energy in all of those decisions!

JG: It’s a combination of emotion and emphasis. I’m describing the hollow feeling-state when nobody on the other side is paying attention, or when they are paying attention to something that you can’t even see.

LM: In the same section, you have this powerful cascade of rhymes, consonance, and assonance. Classic Judy Grahn poetic diction:

I could feel the worms
and I could see them from inside myself, where everything
is mental. I didn’t tell anyone this because it was so
horrible, and I didn’t want to be offensive. Just withdrew.
So that was a clue about my mother’s mind and what she
went through all the time. What she contended with.
Inside herself. In that cocoon.

That dense layering of sonic effects — the en sounds, the off-rhyme mental/horrible, the long oo sounds — how conscious is it?

JG: It’s like what a pianist will do with a riff. Start with a chord, but then the fingers are off doing something else, mysterious but never quite losing the chord. I think that I have become very practiced at it. I wrote that poem when I was supposed to be sitting at a dinner table. I escaped and wrote down long sections of that poem. It all came quickly that time. But I’ve practiced enough that it’s there for me, exactly as if I’d been playing scales.

LM: That makes a lot of sense. That’s why it seems such a bedrock of your technique, I guess.

JG: It’s such a bedrock of my technique that I forget about it! [Laughs]

LM: [Laughs] Well, let’s go back to The Common Woman poems. You said you haven’t had a chance to talk to many people about “Mental,” but I know you’ve been talking about The Common Woman poems for more than 40 years! People have been so moved and affected by that group of poems. I recently wrote an article about women’s bookstores in their support for poetry in the ’70s and ’80s.

JG: The bookstores were just magnificent. And Kim Whitehead [in The Feminist Poetry Movement] was really right, the feminist movement was a movement of poets initially — women could easily write their expressions in some kind of poetic form and so they did. It’s the most time-conservative method. And it doesn’t cost anything. And there were those of us who were making the anthologies — we just wanted to know what women thought. We were burning to know their thoughts. And they had them, buried in their dresser drawers: poems about their very own lives. I remember walking into A Woman’s Place Bookstore (it was pretty early on — maybe the year they opened or the next year, ’72) in Oakland. The whole front of the store was full of chapbooks that people were doing for their friends in basements and so on, all mixed in with the mainstream publications. There were racks and racks of the poetry that was moving women to act. I remember saying to Alice Molloy, one of the founders of the store, look how you’re featuring the poetry! And she said, we’re not doing that as a favor to the poets; we’re doing it because that’s what’s happening right now.

LM: I love that story. It just seems so heroic. Cherríe Moraga, in her most recent book, talks about meeting you in the ’70s when she moved to the Bay Area, and she talks about you and Pat Parker articulating what she called “a lesbian poetry of heroism.”  

JG: Oh, isn’t that wonderful!  We did that very deliberately, too.

LM: Yes, and it chimes in with everything you say in your memoir about being warriors for rape victims and battered women, and even your own childhood fantasies about being a knight and rescuing people. I think that’s a very resonant series of myths for lesbians. And I know that many, many bookstores and feminist institutions were named in honor of The Common Woman poems. They circulated for a long time in manuscript before you published them, right?

JG: Well, we put them out. The first edition was a mimeographed copy on a typewriter with a staple at the corner, on white paper. That would have been back in October 1969, when they were written. And they just began to spread — people memorized them so they spread in slightly distorted ways, but people wanted that message. And then [the artist] Wendy Cadden and I did a very beautiful chapbook with it. It’s a small book, probably only two pages, and Wendy’s illustration on the front is a female face that looks like the land awakening. It’s very moving. And talk about eco-poetics — it really was! That was in 1970, and they cost 25 cents. Our distribution was only hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth. Then the poems were anthologized in several books that were published in New York, which of course had the distribution. So, from there, those poems traveled around the world.

LM: And there were so many powerful stories in your memoir about dramatic moments when you read those poems and they made a difference. You read The Common Women Poems when you went and visited women who were incarcerated. Did you read them to the women who had worked for Charles Manson, the notorious serial killer, when you visited Frontera Women’s Prison?

JG: I’m sure I did. That was one singular afternoon. It was a very dramatic moment in my sense of what the poetry could do — what it was doing. Many women teachers have told me in the last 40 years that they take my poetry to prisons and that it especially resonates with the women there, which makes sense because the poems have a working-class sensibility and it’s working-class people who end up with jail sentences, as we know.

LM: Weren’t you in military prison before you were discharged in the early 1960s?

JG: It wasn’t actually in prison, but I was confined to barracks, and it was the same thing, and it was very painful, for a three-month period of time — just for being a lesbian. So, yeah, that has enabled me to understand all kinds of things: PTSD and what it feels like to be interrogated, isolated, and called names. Either you buckle under to it, or it becomes a horse that you can just ride, ride, ride. Fortunately for me, that’s what my psyche did with it.

LM: Because you’re a warrior.

JG: I guess so!

LM: In The Common Woman Poems I see you inaugurating a very musical, sound-driven style.

Wearing trim suits and spike heels,
She says “bust” instead of breast;
Somewhere underneath she
misses love and trust, but she feels
that spite and malice are the
prices of success. She doesn’t realize
yet, that she’s missed success, also,
so her smile is sometimes still
genuine. After a while she’ll be a real
killer, bitter and more wily, better at
pitting the men against each other
and getting the other women fired.

You’ve actually got a lot of end-rhyme in there that you’re concealing with your line breaks.

JG: Exactly! (Laughing)

LM: And then, further down, those i, ih, bitter, better, killer, pitting sounds — it’s an incredible cacophony that really conveys the spite and power of that position.

JG: It’s a sonnet form, just broken apart. I have to credit Edwin Markham. I was struck by his work, that you could take an old English form, which I had studied as a kid — you could take that form, and you weren’t stuck with it. I could unglue it and make it contemporary. He was doing it for characters in a New England town; I was doing it for women who had no voice, not even in the literature I read. And I wanted them to be there. I wanted them to be my consciousness-raising group!

LM: So you invented your own! “The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke” is the other poem from that era that circulated so widely, and must have served a somewhat similar purpose.

JG: It continues to — that’s what’s so amazing! I got a letter two or three years ago from a 19-year-old who was completely turned around by that poem. And a student at the psych school where I work wanted to use it as one of their texts. This is today, so — oh my gosh, that’s 45 years. I wrote that one in 1965. I didn’t publish it until ’71, but it’s still around! I don’t know whether to say that that’s marvelous or very sad. But social change continues to be this ripple that goes out as if we’re in a shallow sea — that ripple just keeps going out and out and out across the generations.

LM: Can you say something about the form of “Edward the Dyke”? It’s so different than the others.

JG: “Edward the Dyke” is a prose poem. But I also call it a story. And a satire. So it doesn’t really have a category. As we used to say, whatever women do, if they want to call it a poem, it’s a poem.

LM: Absolutely. I don’t have any doubt about its status as a poem. I think because there is a tautness to the language and a kind of surrealism to the dialogue. It’s very Gertrude Stein.

JG: I was not reading very much Stein in the years prior to writing “Edward the Dyke.”  That came later, but she is obviously a touchstone for me, perhaps the one I go back to most consistently. I think she was the genius of the 20th century. Just unabashedly, I love what she did — deconstructing the English language. She did us all an amazing favor.

LM: I think your own interest in word origins and the history of words and their multivalences (even unconscious or unintended valences of different words) is at work here too. I like the story you tell in the memoir of choosing the name Edward for the dyke character here because that wasn’t a cool butch moniker at all — no one would call herself Edward!

JG: It smacked of English kings, and I think that’s one reason I chose it. At one point I was literally so frustrated with myself for my incapacity to complete that piece, and this was one of the first real things I managed to produce by my mid-20s, that I ripped it in half, threw it on the floor, and literally jumped up and down on it, shrieking at it, “Tell me what I’m supposed to do with you! What is going to work?” And that action, I now have come to understand, is actually a spiritual breakthrough. I don’t do it very often, but every time I do it, something happens. And immediately I knew the answer. Immediately I knew that if I didn’t satirize Edward just as much as I was satirizing Dr. Knox, it wouldn’t be an honest piece, and it really wouldn’t work. And now I understand why that is: Because in social change, everyone has to change. It’s not about victim and oppressor, where only the oppressor has to change. It’s about power relations. Everybody has to change, because everybody’s holding them in place.

LM: Shivers, shivers. Let’s talk about “A Woman is Talking to Death,” which is a masterpiece in my opinion, and is the poem of yours that I teach the most. It’s so beautifully narrated in a very simple way, and at the same time the juxtaposition of the events creates an echo effect that transcends the page so that you’re experiencing a parallel emotional journey. I often talk with my student about the way the poem begins with one line, and then the couplet:

Testimony in trials that never got heard

my lovers teeth are white geese flying above me
my lovers muscles are rope ladders under my hands

After the title, “A Woman is Talking to Death,” those lines just plunge us into the land of myth. I know that this is from a period when you were beginning to investigate the sacred, as well as matriarchal tradition. It’s not overt in this poem, but do you think those interests made there way in?

JG: In that poem, yes. The geese got there because there was a biologist who had published something about geese being gay — having gay relationships. And there was some kind of play or skit going on in the Haight, called “Geese,” that was allegedly about lesbians — I never saw it. Anyway, I wanted that refrain because the prose stories in “A Woman is Talking to Death” are so dense and dark, I thought that nobody would be able to read it. I thought, I’ve just created something that’s just going to sink them like boats unless I do something!  I thought of it as, you know, a silver cord that would lift their consciousness to another place. And to have it be lovers, and to have it be this butch-femme turnaround — one is above in one line, and the other is above in the other line, so it has that motion — and then it has these geese. When you think geese flying, you’re looking up, and you’re seeing this white formation across the sky, and I think that human beings have understood something, some sacred feeling, about that for a long, long, long, long time. I think the geese actually carry us to a different place in the poem, as a reminder that there is a different place. That you don’t have to remain lost in the stories’ disasters and deep, dark emotions. That there’s also something else going on — this is not about “I’m going to tear my heart out and throw it in your face,” but rather, “I’m going to give you an experience, and I’m not going to drop you.”

LM: That is beautiful. In the memoir, you talk about this being a poem where you intentionally try to address the intersectional movement politics of class and race. There is a very powerful line, “this woman is a lesbian, be careful,” that anchors the poem in the lesbian’s point of view — she is the antiracist, the one who’s in coalition with all kinds of other movements, and has that big-picture power. That line has always been extremely important to me in my own teaching because I’m always trying to counter the idea that lesbian feminism was insular, that women of color were not part of it, and that white lesbians weren’t thinking about race in the early ’70s.

JG: Utterly not true. It wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just Wendy. Wendy was a leader, and I was right there, but it was everybody else too. If you went to any of these [collective lesbian] households, you would find the same kind of dialogues going on — and you would find a history of people participating in antiracism and labor struggles at People’s Park, washing oil off the ducks at Santa Barbara after the oil spill, and so on. All of those things concerned us. And many of the lesbians identified as socialists and attended socialist gatherings. I remember being asked to read “A Women is Talking to Death” to a huge gathering of leftists, who were eager to break through their own homophobia. We did not have any such word as “intersectionality” — that came later. How ironic for the right-wing forces, the backlash forces, to say that lesbians were racist, white, privileged — to put the same stereotype back in place, and to have so many feminists go along with that is really disheartening because that’s not at all what was happening. In fact, we didn’t get our stories out for a long time because many of us were working class and mainstream publishing remained a New York exercise. I tried for many years to have my memoir published on the East Coast without success; I couldn’t find an agent who was willing to handle it. So, once again, you go to the people to carry it on.

LM: Yes. And your work in the women’s press movement was so important. You were a founder of The Woman’s Press Collective, in Oakland. I know there’s kind of a disheartening side to the story of why Aunt Lute, a nonprofit women’s press, is the one publishing the reader and your memoir rather than a better-known press at this point in your career, but to me there’s also something so heroic and encouraging about that.

JG: Oh, the fact that Aunt Lute has been able to survive all this time is remarkable and it’s a tribute to [founder] Joan [Pinkvoss] and [editor] Shay [Brawn]. They, and so many young people who come in and work with them, sacrifice a lot to publish an extraordinary line — they’re very meticulous about whom they publish, and I am quite proud to be in their lineup. You know, Joan had experienced this movement in the Midwest, in Iowa City. Same movement, same sorts of casts of characters. Joan and I sat for priceless hours discussing ideas and possibilities for my stories; she was right there with me. I don’t think anybody else could have done it.

LM: More than an editor. Someone who’s a comrade, right?

JG: Totally. Totally.

LM: Besides being a poet, you have another very important career as a writer and teacher of sacred traditions. Can you say more about that? 

JG: I teach spirituality, which is different than theology. It encompasses shamanism, and it encompasses indigenous traditions. Our women’s spirituality program has a lot of people who have been initiated or trained in Yoruba traditions. And we follow women wherever they want to go on a spiritual quest: it may be that they want to know more about how to trace the Sacred Feminine in Catholicism, and remain in Catholicism, or it may be they want to leave Catholicism, or whatever they were raised in, or they want to know more about Hindu traditions, or West African Yoruba traditions, or Santeria or whatever. So that means that in order to be a director of such a program, we need to have spiritualities that are very open, and that don’t, in fact, have a theology. So, I have a really variegated (and many would think undisciplined) approach to spirituality.

LM: You’ve written important scholarly books that provide a foundation for your thinking in this area of spirituality, but also in poetry, right? Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds (Beacon, 1984) and Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World (Beacon, 1993). I encountered Another Mother Tongue as a book of gay history and theory, but now I think of it as an important poet’s book because it’s so much about language. It is such a linguistic endeavor, and I guess the same is true of Blood, Bread and Roses because it’s about excavating myth and making new material available for the stories that the poems will tell.  

JG: Yes, the spirituality overlaps with poetry, for example, with metaform — the whole concept of metaform, that it’s an embodied metaphor — it’s not just a verbal construct. It is an apple.

LM: Explain that — “it is an apple” — what do you mean?

JG: Well, a metaform is an embodied idea that is connected to menstruation or menstrual rituals by some peoples or another in some era of history or another. So, an apple is the menstruation of the apple tree. Our ancestors saw non-human entities (as well as humans) as menstrual and birthing beings, and they identified with them very strongly. It’s one of the particularities of the human mind, which is metaformic in my view. And I’m actually now thinking of this not so much as a theory as an embodied philosophy. And I don’t have a word for “embodied philosophy” — it has to be two words. Maybe it’s “eco-philosophy.” But it’s definitely embodied, and makes use not only of mythologies, but also of ethnographies and bodily experiences that people have. I think it’s the work of a poet to come up with this notion, but it’s also a way of looking at the world, in and of itself, even beyond poetry.

People are making use of it in various ways to look at rituals, and to look at human consciousness, and to look at women’s rituals. If women’s rituals can come into the picture, we’re not going to be so heavily dependent on men’s blood rituals. We don’t even think of them as men’s blood rituals, but what else would you say that war is? What else would you say that surgery is? What else would you say that battery is? You would say, okay, that comes out — for the most part, not entirely, but for the most part, it comes out — of men’s parallel rituals, which are blood-based. They are held sacred. Hunters hold that sacred the way carpenters hold sawing wood sacred. And cooks hold their frying pan sacred. Legitimate. But for that to be the only approach that we have — that we have to attack everything, that we have to target everything, that we have to bomb and blow away and shoot everything — we’ve suppressed menstrual rituals that don’t use those kinds of terms at all. An entirely different plot. And I want to bring that plot back. And I’m always looking for people who can get this, and be interested in it. It’s not just about our periods; it’s really about human consciousness, and how to change it.

LM: That’s also a good definition of poetry. Tell me a little about the collection of poems you are currently working on.

JG: Kate Gale of Red Hen Press has been so supportive. She and Mark Cull have put poetry back on the map for the West Coast with Red Hen. She asked me if I’d like to do a second book with her, and I’ve identified several of my nine-part poems (since “A Woman is Talking to Death”) that I’d like to collect. I’d like to write accompanying essays that make them easier to teach. So we talked about that for 2015.

LM: Well, having read your memoir, I know you’ve always been busy!

JG:  Yes, very busy.

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Lisa L. Moore’s most recent book is Sister Arts: The Erotics of Lesbian Landscapes (Minnesota).

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