Julia Spicher Kasdorf is associate professor of English and womenÕs studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of two previous poetry collections: EveÕs Striptease and Sleeping Preacher. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Paris Review, and Poetry, as well as numerous anthologies, including the 2003 Pushcart collection. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Kasdorf is also the author of The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life and Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American.
Poetry in America offers extravagantly formed lyric and narrative poems that function like works of social realism for our times: hard times, wartime, divorce, times of downturn and dissipated resources. Where, in such times, can poetry emerge, the book asks—and answers—again and again. Largely set in rural places and small towns, these poems are politically committed but deeply sensuous, emotionally complex and compassionate. They take up the everyday in meaningful ways, and deliver it with blunt force, yet not without hope or bright humor.
As its title proclaims, Eve’s Striptease delivers a female voice that seeks to “find out for (her)self/ all the desires a body can hold.” Through artful acts of revelation and concealment, these poems test experience against the notions of love and loss that tradition and religion have taught us. These narrative and lyric poems celebrate desire, marriage, and domestic life; they visit sexual terror and consider sickness and death. Construing all of life as a journey that takes us from innocence to knowledge, this work suggests that the maps that we need for this journey may be found written on our own bodies. Kasdorf writes of a life’s migrations, tracing paths that joyfully enlarge our definitions of love and longing – sometimes embracing conventional values and sometimes subverting them.
Winner of the 1991 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.
The poems in this book deal with life in a Pennsylvania Mennonite community and the tensions and conflicts that exist for the speaker as she tries to be true to two worlds, the other being New York City.