Julia Spicher Kasdorf is the author of three poetry collections--Sleeping Preacher (1992), Eve's Striptease (1998), and Poetry in America (2011)--all published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Sleeping Preacher won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and the Great Lakes College’s Association Award for New Writing, and Eve's Striptease was named one of the top 20 poetry books of 1998 by Library Journal. She also co-edited an anthology, Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn, with Michael Tyrell (New York University Press, 2007). Spicher Kasdorf was awarded a 2009 NEA fellowship for poetry and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of a scholarly study of Pennsylvania writer Joseph W. Yoder, Fixing Tradition, and co-editor of two editions of Pennsylvania local color novels, Rosanna of the Amish by Joseph W. Yoder and The House of the Black Ring by Fred Lewis Pattee. Her essay collection, The Body and the Book: Writing a Mennonite Life, was awarded the Book of the Year award by the Conference on Christianity and Literature. She is Associate Professor of English and Women's Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
In The Body and the Book, Spicher Kasdorf explores the cultural and geographical inspiration for her writing in her Mennonite and Amish communities of origin, as well as in New York City where she studied creative writing and published her first book. In her essay, "A Place to Begin," she comments, "I liked being able to think in the free space between places . . . As poetry's power often comes from linking two unlike things to release new insight, so my life has been charged by the experience of embodying a connection between disparate locations" (p. 8).
Julia Kasdorf was often criticized because she was one of the few Mennonite poets that expressed her encounters publicly. She was one of the first Mennonite poets to cross the boundaries of writers and express encounters that she experienced as a child. For example, in Julia Kasdorf’s Eve’s Striptease “Sinning”  She states, “” When I was seven, Mom asked if I knew what rabbits in the hutch were up to. “Fucking” farm cousins told me long before. “We call it intercourse” she said and began the cautionary tales right then.”” This is an example of how Kasdorf’s attitude being a Mennonite poet was completely different toward the public. Mennonites consider themselves a closed community which meant that they do not express or associate their personal/ community issues to any outside person(s). They like to keep any or all personal issues within their environment. However, in Kasdorf’s case she took the initiative to not only express personal issues of Mennonites but to publish them and become an award winning poet for her courageous acts and writing. She covered many topics that you would not expect to read about from a Mennonite poet such as desires, marriage, domestic life, and personal encounters she had with other Mennonites whether it was in her hometown or on her journey to becoming a writer.
Born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, Julia Spicher grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh near Irwin, Westmoreland County. Her parents were Mennonites born in Big Valley, Pennsylvania who chose to leave their rural community in central Pennsylvania to work in an urban setting. Spicher attended Goshen College, in Goshen, Indiana, but completed her B.A. and Ph.D. at New York University. As a student at Goshen College, Spicher visited China in the autumn of 1982 for the Study-Service Trimester at Sichuan Teachers College. She published Moss Lotus, a chapbook of poetry inspired by her experiences in China, as a sophomore English major at Goshen in 1983. She earned her B.A., M.A. in creative writing, and Ph.D. from New York University (1997), where she studied with poet Yehuda Amichai, among others. Her Ph.D. dissertation, Fixing tradition: The cultural work of Joseph W. Yoder and his relationship with the Amish community of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, was supervised by Gordon M. Pradl.
Spicher Kasdorf began to write poetry seriously during her high school years and credits the Poets in the Schools program for nurturing her interest in writing. Her first published poem appeared in 1977 in Images Remembered II, an anthology of the Poets-in-the-Schools Program of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She also wrote in workshops at Summer Happening '79 and under Deborah Burnham and H. L. Van Brunt at Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts in 1980. In 1981 she won the Scholastic Writing Awards with work that was then published in Literary Cavalcade. While a student at Goshen College she also had poems published in With, Builder, Christian Living, and the college publications Record and Broadside.
Awards and recognition
Spicher Kasdorf won the 1991 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for her first book, Sleeping Preacher. She has since won the Great Lakes Colleges Award for New Writing (1993), Book of the Year Award from the Conference on Christianity and Literature (2001), and the Pushcart Prize (poetry) (2004). She was awarded an NEA Grant for Poetry in 2009.
- Sleeping Preacher, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1992.
- Eve's Striptease, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1998.
- Poetry in America, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.
- with Michael Tyrell, eds. "Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn." NYU Press, 2007.
- The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life. rpt. University Park, PA: Penn State Univ. Press, 2009.
Other works include:
- Moss Lotus, poetry chapbook (Atlanta: Pinchpenny Press, 1983) published under name of Julia Spicher. Illustrated by Suelyn Lee
- Rosanna of the Amish by Joseph W. Yoder, Joshua R. Brown, co-editor (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2008)
- Kasdorf, Julia. Eve's StripTease. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 9.
- Julia Spicher, Moss Lotus (Goshen, Indiana: Pinchpenny Press, 1983)
- 'Julia Spicher Kasdorf', Penn State: The Department of English (2005). Retrieved August 30, 2006.
- Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2004. PEN (Permanent Entry Number): 0000111881
- Julia Spicher Kasdorf. Penn State Department of English, 2011. http://english.la.psu.edu/faculty-staff/jmk28
- Julia Spicher Kasdorf. Poets.org. http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/362
- Hostetler, Ann, ed. Julia Kasdorf. A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry. Iowa City, IA: Univ. of Iowa Press, 2003.