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Readings for Writers: J.C. Todd and Nancy Mitchell on World Building in Poetry

Big Blue Marble’s Readings for Writers Series brings together work and wisdom, with readings followed by talks on writers’ crafts. Poets J.C. Todd and Nancy Mitchell will be reading from their new books and then leading a discussion on World Building In Poetry.

World Building in Poetry

World Building isn’t just for fiction writers. Poets create worlds too.  In The Out-of-the-Body Shop, Nancy Mitchell has imagined a world of people displaced from their bodies. In The Damages of Morning, J. C. Todd has used research and oral history to preserve the personal worlds of Central European women whose lives were uprooted and dislocated by the World Wars. Join Nancy and JC in an exploration of world building as they read and discuss their poems.

"The compelling poems in J. C. Todd’s The Damages of Morning emerge from the “dark matter / of earth, terrestrial and sensate.” Set mostly in Eastern Europe and told largely from the perspective of women whom the World Wars trapped in history’s cul-de-sac, they drill down into the indelible details that bear witness to the struggle to survive—"crop-cabbage stumps,” a bullet’s “powder-burnt dimple / in a rammed-earth wall”—and hold both writer and reader accountable for damages that cannot/cannot not be undone."

Lee Sharkey, author, Walking Backwards


Whether homing in on the “blank, bright/as black lacquer” eye of a dead bird, the “scavenger-scattered/cryptic ghost script across the snow,” or the fireflies she mistakes for the father’s materialized threat “to burn//every single weed/into the goddam dirt,” Mitchell leaves no shade of grief or beauty unexamined. Rigorously crafted, these emotionally evocative poems probe what lies below veneers, beyond smoke screens, beneath the relentless pull of memories. They wrestle with the paradox of being at once “in the body, but not/of the body” and release their energy like the sacred “lit/sweet grass/braid” mourners pass hand-to-hand at a friend’s burial ceremony. The Out-of-Body Shop is transfixing and transformative.
—Mihaela Moscaluic, author of Immigrant Model

J. C. Todd is a Fellow of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and winner of a Rita Dove Poetry Prize. Author of The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press, 2018), What Space This Body (Wind, 2008) and co-author of the artist books, On Foot/By Hand and FUBAR (Lucia Press, 2018, 2016), she has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, Ucross, Ragdale, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. She has taught in the MFA Program at Rosemont and the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr and holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson.

J. C. Todd is a Fellow of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and winner of a Rita Dove Poetry Prize. Author of The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press, 2018), What Space This Body (Wind, 2008) and co-author of the artist books, On Foot/By Hand and FUBAR (Lucia Press, 2018, 2016), she has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, Ucross, Ragdale, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. She has taught in the MFA Program at Rosemont and the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr and holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson.

Nancy Mitchell is a 2012 Pushcart Prize winner in poetry, and the author of The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002), Grief Hut (Cervena Barva Press, 2009), The Out-of-Body Shop (Plume Editions in 2018) and co-editor of Plume Interviews 1 (MadHat Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in journals such as AGNI, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Daily, Washington Square Review and have been anthologized in Last Call (Sarabande Books), The Working Poet (Autumn House Press), and Plume 3, 4, & 5. She has been awarded artist in residence fellowships at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in San Angelo, Virginia and Auvillar, France, and at Spring Creek, Oregon State University. She taught Creative Writing for Maryland Summer Center for Arts, 2012-2014, and in the Environmental Studies Program and English Department at Salisbury University where she produced the annual Fulton School of the Arts festival WORDSTOCK. Mitchell currently teaches for CELL at Salisbury University in Maryland. She serves as Associate Editor of Special Features and Interviews for  Plume Poetry.

Nancy Mitchell is a 2012 Pushcart Prize winner in poetry, and the author of The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002), Grief Hut (Cervena Barva Press, 2009), The Out-of-Body Shop (Plume Editions in 2018) and co-editor of Plume Interviews 1 (MadHat Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in journals such as AGNI, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Daily, Washington Square Review and have been anthologized in Last Call (Sarabande Books), The Working Poet (Autumn House Press), and Plume 3, 4, & 5. She has been awarded artist in residence fellowships at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in San Angelo, Virginia and Auvillar, France, and at Spring Creek, Oregon State University. She taught Creative Writing for Maryland Summer Center for Arts, 2012-2014, and in the Environmental Studies Program and English Department at Salisbury University where she produced the annual Fulton School of the Arts festival WORDSTOCK. Mitchell currently teaches for CELL at Salisbury University in Maryland. She serves as Associate Editor of Special Features and Interviews for Plume Poetry.