Photo Credit: Joy Gaines-Friedler

Joy Gaines-Friedler

b. 1954

Current City, State, Country

Farmington Hills, Michigan, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit, Michigan, USA


Joy Gaines-Friedler was born in Detroit, and raised in Oak Park, Michigan. Her work is published in over 100 literary magazines and anthologies including The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, 101 Jewish Poems for The Third Millennium (2021), The Strategic Poet: Honing The Craft by Diane Lockward (2021), and The Path To Kindness, edited by James Crews (2022). Joy teaches poetry and memoir for non-profits in the city and around the state. Her work has taken her into the Lapeer Correctional Facility where she taught poetry to male lifers; to Freedom House Detroit where she taught asylum seekers from western and northern Africa; with young adults at risk for suicide through Common Ground; with women in hiding from abuse; with young adults adjudicated; with parents of murdered children; and in university settings. She also taught for InsideOut Literary Arts Project founded by the poet Terry Blackhawk. Joy is the the author of three full length books of poetry, and was a co-winner of the 2021 Celery City Chapbook Poetry Prize. She’s had multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations among other awards. Her book Capture Theory (2018) is a Forward Review Indie Press Best Book Award Finalist. Before poetry, Joy made her living as a photographer.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

My go-to source of wisdom is Abraham Joshua Heschel and the book The Wisdom of Heschel. Heschel tells us that “what we owe the old is reverence.” I use “old” in quotes. Recently, while looking at my work as a whole I discovered a theme: forgiveness. Forgiveness of self and others. Doesn’t Judaism teach us that we must care for ourselves before we can care for others? The Jewish perspective is the lens from which I live by. Therefore, my art can only reflect that point of view. Its humor, its tragedies, its food, its nonsense, its values, music, and all those holidays find their way into my work, consciously or otherwise. A poem is an act of intimacy. A poem takes action. Therefore it embodies the concept of Tikkun Olam. It is an act of repair.

In addition, in keeping with Heschel’s claim of reverence, much of my work centers around loss; loss of my parents, but in particular the loss of my two best friends: Jim, who died from AIDS, and Linda, who was murdered by her husband. I write about those two and others because it is one of my ways to keep their memory alive.

Published Works

Stone on Your Stone (Celery City Press, 2022)
Capture Theory (Kelsay Books, 2018)
Dutiful Heart (Broadkill River Review Press, 2013)
Like Vapor (Mayapple Press, 2008)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Teacher/Workshop Facilitator/Editor


Oakland Community College, Associates Studies in Humanities
Oakland University, Undergraduate Studies in English & History
Oakland University, Graduate Studies in American Literature
Ashland University, MFA in Creative Writing

Subject Matter