Press 53 . PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130-0314

Gabrielle Brant Freeman
Press Fifty-Three

560 N. Trade St, Ste 103
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
When She Was Bad
by Gabrielle Brant Freeman

ISBN 978-1-941209-47-9
9 x 6 paperback, 76 pages
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Gabrielle Brant Freeman's poetry has been published in many journals, including Barrelhouse, Hobart, Melancholy Hyperbole, Rappahannock Review, Shenandoah, storySouth, and Waxwing. She was nominated twice for the Best of the Net, and was a 2014 finalist. Freeman won the 2015 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition, and she received a Regional Artist Grant in 2015 from the North Carolina Arts Council. Freeman earned her MFA through Converse College. When She Was Bad is her first book of poetry.
Praise for When She Was Bad

Lust. Love. Betrayal and loyalty. Temptation and hilarity. Gabrielle Freeman dissects her speakers’ hearts, tenderly, with supreme attention to what it is to be human, female, and fierce. Gabrielle Freeman’s poems are bad—by which I mean badass bold. Michael Jackson bad. Freeman’s bad and you know it. That’s why you read her. When She Was Bad is a smart, compassionate, tightly crafted and explosive debut. 

—Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout

The poems of Gabrielle Freeman’s When She Was Bad are by turns amorous, witty, fierce, ironic and erudite, but they are always sensual and often erotic. As the title suggests, Freeman explores the promises and surprises of the human heart, and her deft free verse addresses temptations, rewards and disappointments. Her bold inquiries sharpen both her eye and her tongue, but her first collection is far from single-minded, as she makes room for owls, spider wort, Bela Lugosi, Stephen King, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Renoir. When She Was Bad is entertaining and enlightening, and with its publication Gabrielle Freeman steps onto the stage in full voice, singing true.

—R.T. Smith, editor of Shenandoah Review and author of Messenger: Poems

​Gabrielle Freeman’s When She Was Bad is about passion: sex, love, loss, life at its most elemental. One poem challenges, “Did you bare your neck or your teeth?” These poems bare neck and teeth. They are fierce and tender, and each poem so full of energy that the page can barely contain it.

—Suzanne Cleary, author of Beauty Mark

Gabrielle Freeman's poetry is fecund, sensuous, and refreshing. I admire the strangeness in these poems—not a strangeness of obliquity or constructed befuddlement, but an unpredictability that ultimately clarifies, inducing empathy. In her poems I can hear "on the morning road . . . the cello's throat" as it "opens into a blur of birds and fog." Her poems transcend delicate transcription of events; instead, they entice and enrich, offer room for a reader's imagination to blossom with interpretation. These are pieces by a soul who understands the importance of the world behind the world, a place to which few gain access.

—William Wright, series editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology, and author of Tree Heresies

This may be a first collection, but it doesn’t feel like it. In a book filled with the brilliant observations of an amazing eye and mind, Gabrielle Freeman is thoroughly in command of her poetic instrument. The sensuousness and frank eroticism of these poems hold the attention of even the most easily distracted reader and keep us turning pages, as in a good novel. This is a book you are going to want to own. 

—Richard Tillinghast, author of An Armchair Traveller's History of Istanbul: City of Remembering and Forgetting

Cover artist Dawn D. Surratt studied art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a recipient of the Spencer Love Scholarship in Fine Art. She has exhibited her work throughout the Southeast and currently works as a freelance designer and artist. Her work has been published internationally in magazines, on book covers, and in print media. She lives on the beautiful Kerr Lake in northern North Carolina with her husband, one demanding cat, and a crazy Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

Find more of Dawn's work here.
Author photo by Dawn D. Surratt
When She Was Bad

What does having a curl
right in the middle 
of her forehead have to do
with anything? This little girl,
her attitudinal dichotomy.
Very, very good or
horrid. The curl, coquettish,
belying innocence. 

Is that what this is all about? 
Can she only be
very, very good, or 
a rosy cheeked Lilith,
dimpled demon? 

Her clear-eyed knowing:


The portable turntable still plays.
Just so you know. I got it out last night,
sat on the deck with a stack of our records, 
the bottle of good scotch we were saving. 

The needle still works, but the speed 
isn’t quite right, and the records are scratched, 
so all the songs go in and out like some
’60s hippy dancer pop-art montage, 

hands waving, expounding on an hourglass, 
broken up by an occasional 
bad film splice. A flash of nothing, 
then a figure, pulled into action 

like a marionette. Long skirts swirling; 
ugly headbands. That signature vinyl 
sound: anticipation. Put the needle 
on the record. Hold your breath. The stars 

only clarified that you are traveling, 
like some latter-day effing wise man
run off with your gold and your myrrh, 
looking to present to someone who isn’t 

me. It didn’t work, the scotch. I dreamed 
I woke up, saw you strap your shoes on, 
light a cigarette, the way you do 
on the bench at the foot of our bed.

I watched you from behind, cupping your hand 
around the flame. And then I woke up 
expecting to see you there, smell your night sweat 
and hand-rolled tobacco. But the bench remains

empty. The bottle and the street,
they comfort me. I wear them like smoke.