Featured Reviews, VOLUME 5

Julia Spicher Kasdorf – Poetry in America [Featured Review]

Page 2- Julia Spicher Kasdorf – Poetry in America
She reflects on the dangerousness of this game and the unwillingness to quit until life circumstances and age separated her and her friends.  Her words recall an ancient urge for recklessness and flight, something imprinted into our genes, which again affirms the chosen epigraphs.

“And now, I can barely stay in the lines,

So I keep going back, as if those times,

half a life ago, could explain why some women

get driven by a dumb desire for flight.”

In trying to reconcile the persons that society and circumstances have molded us into being, we often know the responsible and safe way, yet, in moments of crises, seek and yearn for that flight, even if it means careening around 25 mile per hour curves going 50.  In addressing her own history, Kasdorf opens the doors for the reader to insert his or her own stories.

Though the tension between gender and society lies in the subconscious of the entire collection, a number of poems directly address the sometimes oppressive disconnect that happens when men do not recognize and accept women as deserving of respect.  In several instances, Kasdorf encounters the awkwardness and audacity of chauvinist male antagonists.  In “On an Oregon Mountain I remember the Hebrew Mystics,” she writes,

“a man who’d offered to scrape the frost off from my windshield tried to kiss me awkwardly in the parking lot.”

And in “Westmoreland,” she writes about how “an ordinary man, a dentist or someone’s dad,” exposes himself to her in the public library.


Kasdorf, though does not take the opportunity to decry the evils of our male-driven society, but rather pointedly asserts her disquiet at the incidents and seeks some sense of understanding and learning from them.  In doing so, she does not isolate her readers and speaks truth to a larger audience.

Poetry in America is not just a single poem within the collection; it is a broad view of our lives.   In this lyrical look at the intimacies of our everyday, the joys and sorrows, work and play, parenthood, suffering, and a slice of literature spoken aloud in a bookstore which sells more coffee than anything else, Kasdorf captures that sense of nostalgia, loss, and flight that the Everyman experiences and feels.  Her writing is funny, strong, poignant, unsettling at times, and is a work worth reading and returning to; a reminder that we could all use a little self-reflection.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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