ⓘ Janet Aalfs


ⓘ Janet Aalfs

Janet Elizabeth Aalfs is an American poet and martial artist. She is a founding member of Valley Womens Martial Arts and the National Womens Martial Arts Federation, and founder and director of Lotus Peace Arts. She served as poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts from 2003-05.


1. 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 womens center in New Bedford, Massachusetts, read and found inspiration in Sisterhood is Powerful, and had her poems published by the womens center at Southeastern Massachusetts University.

During her first year at Hampshire College, in 1974, she joined the womens center and registered for womens studies classes at University of Massachusetts, which shared classes with Hampshire.


1.1. Life and work Sexual orientation

While still in college, Aalfs would come out of the closet as a lesbian. She would go on to get her Masters of Fine Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College.

Shortly thereafter she founded a womens 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. In 1978, Aalfs began practicing martial arts and became a founding member of Valley Womens Martial Arts and the Institute for Healing and Violence Prevention Strategies VWMA/HAVPS and the National Womens Martial Arts Federation.


1.2. Life and work 2000s

Aalfs, founder and director of Lotus Peace Arts, has served as the director and member of the Leaders Group of VWMA since 1982.

She holds a seventh-degree black belt in Shuri-ryū, a sixth-degree black belt in Modern Arnis, and is a Jian Mei Chief Instructor of tai chi and qigong.

Between 2003 and 2005, she served as the poet laureate for Northampton, Massachusetts. In 2013, she received the Leadership and Advocacy in the Arts Award from the Center for Women and Community, University of Massachusetts Amherst.