Jaclyn Friedman

Jaclyn Friedman

BandSpoken WordComedy

I want my work to leave you with a sense that something has just happened to you, but you're not yet sure what. I want you to experience alchemy. Above all, I want you to not just listen, but to enter the world through my work. Here's hoping it disturbs, unsettles, comforts, and changes you.


Called "the hardest working woman in feminism" by Michelle Tea, Jaclyn Friedman is a writer, performer and activist. With advanced training in both theater and writing, Jaclyn has been performing as a poet since 1995, when she saw Patricia Smith seize the stage, and, began immediately to write for and compete in slams. The slams honed her sense of rhythm and solidified her belief in the word as a living thing, a powerful magic that can both build and destroy relationships.

Jaclyn is a dynamic and powerful performer whose work deals with issues of sexual and cultural violence, empowerment, sexual and gender identity, and love and loss. She has shared the stage with the likes of Olga Broumas, Letta Neely, Saul Williams, and the legendary spoken-word troupe Sister Spit. She also starred for several years in The Yellow Dress, a touring one-woman play about dating violence.

Jaclyn teaches workshops on Performance Skills for Writers, Page vs. Stage, Using Writing and Theater to Break Through Taboo, and other subject to students of all ages in community groups and on college campuses. Her poems and nonfiction can be found in numerous publications, including PW.org, PoetsAgainstTheWar.org (where her poem "State of the Union" was selected as a Poem of the Day), in the Underwood Review, and in the Lambda Award nominated anthology Pinned Down By Pronouns. Her opinion column, "Where Your Mouth Is," was a popular monthly feature in Sojourner: The Women's Forum until the magazine's untimely demise in October 2002, and she now produces a monthly podcast by the same name, which can be heard on AlterNet. Jaclyn holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has received a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award, a 2004 Somerville Arts Council Artist Grant, and a recent fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She is a contributing writer for PopPolitics.com.

Jaclyn writes, "I want my work to leave you with a sense that something has just happened to you, but you're not yet sure what. I want you to experience alchemy. I love wildness and precision equally, and relish contradiction.

My poems strive simultaneously toward fear and hope like a sin curve approaching zero on two axes. This tension and impossibility creates a kind of taut beauty. There's almost always a "you" in my poems, but whom the you is changes everything -- when the "you" is the reader, and the "I" is the speaker, we are forcibly linked and involved in the subject of the poem. When the "I" is the speaker and the "you" is someone else, not the reader, someone specific, the reader becomes an eavesdropper, and the poem takes on the vulnerable tone of a secret, a private communication.

Above all, I want you to not just listen, but to enter the world of my work, and by extension, the world. Here's hoping it disturbs, unsettles, comforts, and changes you."

In her spare time, Jaclyn plots for world domination through truth and secretly watches reality television. Her favorite lipstick color is Wicked.


13 Kisses

Written By: Jaclyn Friedman

It was barely a pressing together
of lips. You were scared, I know.
We were in the emptied street. A couple
of kids laughed in the distance,
trying to dodge the oncoming rain.

Dancing is a kissing
to begin with. Somehow the heat
draws you closer. I took off my sweater and you
laced your fingers through my belt loops.
Our hips kissed first.

I didn't even know there was anything inside me to open.

My sex has never been a flower
and you didn't try to pluck her
from me. Smart girl, prostrate
before that screaming, starving mouth.
You let her want to kiss you first.

In Vermont.
On the highway anywhere, going fast.
In Montreal, in New Jersey
at Christmas on the living room couch.
In Florida I tried to kiss you
but I couldn't. The phone never had it so good.

It was in the doorway, I'm sure of it.
Was it snowing or evening? How old were we
when we kissed like that for the first time, dry
and with the wrong intention? What was the date
of the first lie?

To: you@yourisp.com
Date: Today 8:53 AM
Subject: breakfast.
I hate the cereal this morning,
washing your mouth out of mine.
Come home so I can kiss you again.

You loved me like a question
I didn't want to answer. You wanted me
to prove it could be done. Sometimes
I tried. Sometimes I pled the fifth
and kissed you.

Once I tried to kiss every freckle
and got as far as your neck when you moaned.
I had already touched my lips to one hundred
and forty seven precise chrome-red moments of skin.
One hundred and forty seven times you had sighed,
giggled, made no noise at all, accepting the heat
of my mouth with your breathing. The one
hundred and forty eighth time my lips brushed just
below your earlobe on the left. I stopped counting after that.

You can say a lot of things
that would be true. For example,
I grew distant. You got clingy.
Fear fucked us both in his fashion.
But he never kissed me like you.

is not my name.
(We're in the car)
has lips
you want to kiss.
(It's raining. I'm crying.)


Your mouth opened into mine
and if we were the sole survivors of a nuclear holocaust
you still shouldn't have made me swoon into you like that
if you were never going to kiss me again.

State of the Union

Written By: George W. Bush (edited by Jaclyn Friedman)

In this chamber, you and I form a terrible We:
a reckoning whirlwind. America. A single chemical reaction
producing homeless wonder and federal faith.
One heart and one soul in Freedom and prison,
addiction, ambition, desire and fight.

We grasp beyond terror and we are bombs,
suspect and broken in our own country. In the ruins
of two towers we seek and possess terror,
seize great arsenals of it by the will of Now.

We all risk death to live in the world.
Korea, China, Russia, Iraq: history ties
millions of people to nerve not accounted for by nations.
The havoc of sanity is burning.

America, no people are free from sorrow.
Mourn. Strive for a future. Peace
is never revealed in the conquest of strangers.
Loving God, guide us now.

(Based on the text of the 2003 State of the Union address, this poem uses only words found in the address in the order in which they appear.)

You Must Be

Written By: Jaclyn Friedman

The next thing you believe will be a lie.

You bleed more than you want to.

Somewhere there is a man with green eyes and a gun. Give him ten cents.

Ask your mother about the hidden kiss.

Hum underwater.

There was a meadow. Find it again.

Set fire to the next red thing you touch.

Your skin creates the universe. Your bone erodes the planet.

Say yes.

Every third day for a month, you will find a penny. Save them in a yellow bag.

You could be in the desert.

No. You'll understand.

You are pregnant. You must be very certain.

Don't speak for the next twenty three hours.

Once, when you were a child, you kept a secret you've since forgotten. Tell it to the next person you meet.

In Madison. In Paris. In Springfield. In Bagdhad.

In twenty minutes, stand on your favorite streetcorner. Await instruction.

The person to your left will be with you when you die.


A partial list of Jaclyn's print publications:

* The Pedestal -- December 2005. Poem: "Watermelon Basketball"

* Pinned Down by Pronouns. Edited by Toni Amato and Mary Davies -- 12/03. Poem: "Meeting at Babel"

* PW.org (official site of Poets and Writers Magazine) -- 5/03. interview: "Mark Doty on America, Home, and the Poet as Spokesperson"

* PoetsAgainst theWar.org -- 4/2/03. Poem of the Day: "State of the Union"

* Sojourner -- 1/02. Poem: "Things I Never Knew I Loved"

* Shameless. Edited by Hanne Blank -- 2002. Short story: "Deeper"

* Sojourner -- 8/01 through 9/02. Column: "Where Your Mouth Is"

* Sojourner -- 5/01. Essay: "I Propose a Gastronomic Revolution"

* Underwood Review -- Fall/Winter 1999. poems: "George," "Tuesday," "Untitled"

Set List

I can perform sets from 10 to 45 minutes, as your event requires. Here is a sample 45 minute set:

Kiss Me Now
Start Where You Are
I'm Not Medusa
How Things Were
Bayonne, 1958
13 Kisses
Why I Didn't Call
After Noon
State of the Union
You Must Be
Some Questions
Every 3 Seconds
Watermelon Basketball
Things Unsaid
Meeting at Babel
By the End of This Song