Janet Elizabeth Aalfs (born August 14, 1956) is an American poet and martial artist. She is a founding member of Valley Women's Martial Arts and the National Women's Martial Arts Federation, and founder and director of Lotus Peace Arts. She served as poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts from 2003-05.
Life and Work
As a 13-year-old, Aalfs wrote her first poem, and began focusing on her writing practice. Her father (1922–2001), a minister, is credited with teaching Aalfs about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. By the age of sixteen, Aalfs had participated in assisting her mother in the founding of the women's center in New Bedford, Massachusetts, read and found inspiration in Sisterhood is Powerful, and had her poems published by the women's center at Southeastern Massachusetts University.
During her first year at Hampshire College, in 1974, she joined the women's center and registered for women's studies classes at University of Massachusetts, which shared classes with Hampshire. While still in college, Aalfs came out of the closet as a lesbian. She would go on to get her Master's of Fine Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College. Shortly thereafter she founded a women's writing group, and eventually two lesbian writing groups: Calypso Borealis and the Tuesday Night Lesbian Writers Group. She also founded Orogeny Press, a publishing house for fiction and lesbian poetry.