Speaking of poetry, as I hope we often will in this blog – our area is abuzz with very accomplished poets – let’s give a shout out to JC Todd, whose poem “The Girl in the Square” has won the Rita Dove Poetry Prize in the International Literary Awards Competition, sponsored by the Center for Women Writers at Salem College, N.C.
JC is a lecturer in the Creative Writing Department at Bryn Mawr College, and, among other honors, she was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2014.
The “Square” in the title is Tahrir [Arabic for Liberation] Square in Cairo, where many of the “Arab Spring” uprisings of 2011 took place, spurred in large part by the political and social-media activity of women.
What’s cool is that this is a poem inspired by an art exhibit and a famous video moment from the 2011 uprisings. JC writes: “The poem was written in response to an exhibit at the Bryn Mawr College library, Creative Dissent: Arts of the Arab World Uprisings, co-curated by Christiane Gruber and Nama Khalil of the University of Michigan. Its inspiration was a video clip of soldiers dragging and kicking a young woman in Tahrir Square. Her burqa had opened, revealing a blue bra. The bra became a revolutionary meme and graffito of Arab Spring, but I am haunted by the girl and her disappearance. Who is she? Has she survived?” Questions to be asked!
BAck in April, someone said to me, after seeing JC read a splendid poem at the Moonstone Arts 100 Poets Reading, that “I didn’t know she was so political.” I know what the speaker means: readers value JC for her moving poems about our concrete, personal, daily lives. On the other hand, the personal is the political is the personal, and for JC, daily life and political life are surely part of the same dynamic. Well might she echo the saying of Pericles, that those who say politics is not their business have no business. Poetry is a form of witness and of protest, even if all it does is present us with the world … but JC’s poetry does much more than that. Congratulations.