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Julia Rudlaff

Unprecedented Body (A Poetry Chapbook)


Julia Rudlaff is a third-year student at Michigan State University studying civil engineering and English with a creative writing concentration. Julia has been writing poetry since middle school and loves experimenting with form and style. Their work primarily explores themes relating to the body, gender, and family relationships. 


Unprecedented Body is a chapbook-length collection of poetry that explores the intersections of body image, gender identity, and struggling with an eating disorder during the pandemic. It explores living in a “pandemic body” and documents, by reflecting on personal experiences, responding to media articles, and listening to peers’ stories, the changes my body, and our bodies as a collective, have undergone throughout the pandemic.

Content Warnings: 

  • Contains references to eating disorders and fat phobia

  • Contains references to and descriptions of bones/skeletons

  • Contains references to death

  • Contains references to animal death


           Winning a CREATE! Microgrant helped me transform an idea I had for a poetry project and actualize it in a way that I otherwise would not have. It gave me the confidence to take on a large project and motivated me to see it through to the end. It also connected me with a community of artists I could learn from, listen to, and observe during a time where that type of connection was limited. Winning this grant was especially meaningful because it inspired me to continue writing poetry even when I lacked inspiration or felt overwhelmed by the circumstances around me.


           This award also gave me financial flexibility to pursue additional angles of this project. I used some of the grant money to interview my peers about their experiences with body image and gender identity during the pandemic and compensate them for their time. Though none of my poetry is explicitly drawn from or based on those interviews, the insight and inspiration I found in those conversations helped me better understand and translate my experiences into poetry. 

           I believe other CAL students would greatly benefit from similar financial support because it would allow them to expand their artistic vision and explore more facets of their work than they may otherwise be able to. Furthermore, creating art is a challenging, effortful, and time-consuming process that deserves compensation, especially when many students’ financial resources are strained. Allowing artists to create art without the burden of financial concerns would enhance their ability to be creative and remove a barrier that often consumes a great deal of energy and time.

           The process of creating art through Covid-19 was challenging and fulfilling. I struggled at times to find the inspiration, energy, and mental clarity necessary for writing poetry. I found it particularly difficult to write poetry about the challenges of living in a pandemic while being in the midst of one. However, it was also incredibly gratifying because I had the opportunity to translate my complex, layered experiences from the past year and a half into poetry.