University Park, Pa. --- Julia Kasdorf, a nationally recognized poet and associate professor of English at Penn State, has received a 2009 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete her current manuscript of poems, "Poetry in America."
A faculty member in the College of the Liberal Arts, Kasdorf is a writer with strong interests in religion, culture and the relationship between writers and communities.
The NEA literature fellowships encourage the production of new work and allow writers the time and means to write. The fellowships alternate annually between poetry and prose. For fiscal year 2009, 42 poets will receive fellowships of $25,000 each.
"Julia’s fellowship is a terrific honor for our MFA program, the English department and Penn State generally," said Robin Schulze, professor and head of the Department of English. "Few writers ever receive such recognition. The award puts Julia in truly distinguished company."
Kasdorf’s first book, "Sleeping Preacher," received the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and The Great Lakes Colleges Award for New Writing. Her second collection of poems, "Eve's Striptease," was described 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."
Her collection of essays about memory, culture, gender and writing, "The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life," was named the Book of the Year by MLA's Conference on Christianity and Literature. In the biography, "Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American," she interpreted the life and cultural production of one writer and musician, tracing the negotiations he made between his sectarian background and the broader culture during the early 20th century.
Kasdorf also wrote an introduction and collaborated with Joshua R. Brown to restore and annotate the text of J.W. Yoder’s 1940 local color classic, "Rosanna of the Amish" (Herald Press, 2008). Her current nonfiction project focuses on sacrifice as it is configured in the various roles of mother, soldier and religious martyr.
At Penn State, she directs the MFA program; she developed the Writer in the Community project and teaches the poetry workshop. She also is a Fellow, Institute for Arts and Humanities, at the University.