The Common Woman

Judy Grahn’s chapbook of seven poems, The Common Woman, published by Spinsters Ink and printed by the Womens Press Colective with drawings by Wendy Cadden in the version I grabbed from the library. Seven poems about women all ending in a refrain about the common woman “is as common as the common crow,” or “as common as a thunderstorm,” as common as the reddest wine,” etc.

The first is Helen, at 9 am, at noon, at 5:15, a powerful poem about a working woman who tries to morph as much as possible into a man. “Her grief expresses itself in fits of fury/ over details, details take the place of meaning,/ money takes the place of life.”

We also have a hitchhiker, a waitress, a lesbian who’s just come out, an abortionist, a neighbor. A beautiful collection that supposedly inspired the women’s movement with its exhortation to rise up, “the common woman is as common as the best of bread and will rise and will become strong…”

Sidenote, I learned about Grahn from The Feminist Bookstore Movement book, where her poem inspired the name of the Austin feminist bookstore. Sadly she asked them for money for using her term “Common Woman,” and that alongside the new landlord’s ridiculous request for a new name caused them to change to Bookwoman.