Julia Spicher Kasdorf, poet and Goshen College alumnus, grinned as she faced dozens of students and several English department professors in a science classroom. She had just been asked what makes a professional writer. “Well,” she said after a slight pause, “you practice it, and you get paid for it.”
Spicher Kasdorf, who visited Goshen on Friday as a stop on her book tour for her latest collection, “Poetry in America,” is simultaneously lyrical and blunt, much like her poetry.
Prior to her Friday night performance in Reith Hall, the poet spoke to a group of students from several classes, answering questions about writing poetry and her own experiences with the art. The discussion ranged from interpretations of past work to Spicher Kasdorf’s Mennonite background, which she says is “where I come from and what I love. I think it’s the one field I was given to plow over and over again.”
Later that evening, the poet presented excerpts from Poetry in America, which focuses on work, particularly women’s work, and resilience. Spicher Kasdorf demonstrated both humor and poignancy as she read through her pieces, which students appreciated. Upon hearing “Eulogy Against—Ten Years Later,” junior Maryn Munley commented that she liked the “interesting use of silence within a literary piece.”
The content of this particular collection makes it exciting to share with others, Spicher Kasdorf said, because it is “going out into the world at a time when people seem open to thinking about work—jobs, for one thing, but also the idea of what constitutes meaningful work or what we can realistically expect along those lines.”
Yet the poet feels that the art is more fundamental than that. When asked about her purpose as a poet, Spicher Kasdorf paused again, then said simply: “to make something of beauty out of what you get…beauty is really important. Beauty is sometimes all we have of the world here.”
To see more of Spicher Kasdorf’s work, visit http://www.mennonitewriting.org/journal/3/5/yehuda-amichai-late-november/.