About this poet

On December 6, 1962, Julia Spicher Kasdorf was born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. She was educated at Goshen College and New York University.

Her books of poetry include Eve's Striptease (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) and Sleeping Preacher (1992), which received the 1991 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and the Great Lakes Colleges Award for New Writing in 1993.

She is also the author of the biography Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American (2003) and The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life, 1991-1999 (2001), which won the Book of the Year Award from the Modern Language Association's Conference on Christianity and Literature. With Michael Tyrell, she edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn (2007).

Her work has been described by the poet Eamon Grennan as "Crosshatched by body, spirit, and the relation between them; animated by bright instinctive exchanges between carnal and religious zones of experience; driven by an honest, explicitly female consciousness of what 'animal' and 'soul' might mean."

She currently teaches creative writing and women's studies at Pennsylvania State University.

First Gestures

Julia Spicher Kasdorf, 1962
Among the first we learn is good-bye, 
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger 
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom, 
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield. 
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye, 
we're leaving," and her son stands firm 
sobbing, until at last he runs after her, 
among shoppers drifting like sharks 
who must drag their great hulks 
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories; 
imagine your life drawn on a map-- 
a scribble on the town where you grew up, 
each bus trip traced between school 
and home, or a clean line across the sea 
to a place you flew once. Think of the time 
and things we accumulate, all the while growing 
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging, 
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars 
for each place the world would not give 
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced 
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord 
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills 
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light-- 
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings 
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines 
across the wall of a tiny, white room 
where a girl makes love for the first time. 
Its leaves tremble like small hands 
against the screen while she weeps 
in the arms of her bewildered lover. 
She's too young to see that as we gather 
losses, we may also grow in love; 
as in passion, the body shudders 
and clutches what it must release.

From Eve's Striptease by Julia Kasdorf. Copyright © 1998 by Julia Kasdorf. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

From Eve's Striptease by Julia Kasdorf. Copyright © 1998 by Julia Kasdorf. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Born in 1962, Julia Spicher Kasdorf is the author of several collections of poetry and received the 1991 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for her book Sleeping Preacher

by this poet

poem
At dusk the girl who will become my mom
must trudge through the snow, her legs
cold under skirts, a bandanna tight on her braids.
In the henhouse, a klook pecks her chapped hand
as she pulls a warm egg from under its breast.
This girl will always hate hens, 
and she already knows she won't marry a farmer.
In a
poem
We keep our quilts in closets and do not dance.
We hoe thistles along fence rows for fear
we may not be perfect as our Heavenly Father.
We clean up his disasters. No one has to
call; we just show up in the wake of tornadoes
with hammers, after floods with buckets.
Like Jesus, the servant, we wash each other's