Nomad of Salt and Hard Water

Poems by Cynthia Dewi Oka

Nomad-of-Salt-and-Hard-WaterStarting with the redaction of Rilke’s verse, Cynthia Dewi Oka’s revision goes beyond a line here, a comma there. In the 2nd edition of Nomad, Oka places us in the middle of a textual journey, a reexamination of the self, a labor intensive that extends beyond any wage legislated by patriarchy and fake liberalism. Oka has revisited her body (of work) with an intentional force that reclaims our losses and a skin-shedding so necessary that it redefines poetry. The lyricism in Oka’s poetry is enough to spllit a canonical rock open. We should hear the reverberations of her craft (in constant motion) for years to come.

—Willie Perdomo, author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon


Each line in Nomad of Salt and Hard Water is a careful, but definite step. These poems dream about the tension (and the reckoning) against colonialism and the post-apocalyptic, but there is a deep sensuality and wonder at what can be saved. Oka’s mythmaking creates a landscape that calls on nature, the power of women, and the idea of writing and rewriting on the palimpsest of the destroyed and those reclaiming their power.  These poems occasionally cut and tenderly cradle. Imagine putting Nomad of Salt and Hard Water on the shelf with Cha’s Dictee and Audre Lorde, Barbara Jane Reyes, and Cathy Park Hong. Oka is a poet who calls for a close listening in these pages.

—Tara Betts, author of Arc & Hue


These poems are dazzling perceptive dream-songs strung out on a bridge crossing countries of land and ocean.  They are built to hold loneliness, heartache, and the promise of happiness. These beautiful, intuitive poems are how language emerges in a faraway tongue, when it appears to have been left behind.

—Joy Harjo, author of Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings


With poetic heritage in shell and myth, and descended from Walcott and Lorde, these poems eternalize seaside Indonesian culture, and meld myth with the everyday. Oka’s elemental lyric veers and lilts, renders the chaos of reality in the deliberate icons and felt lushness of dreams. The bravery of crossing out and rewriting not only history but one’s own story, understanding the mutability of a tale, establishes this poetry as an inquiry into the wildness of interiority. Monuments to family and diaspora appear here in a brocade that could only come from a “mind (that) is emerald remedy for abandonment”.

—Cynthia Arrieu-King, author of Manifest


Publisher: Thread Makes Blanket Press

Publication Date: April, 2016

96 pages. $15.95 Paperback

ISBN: 978-0-989747-40-0

Available:  AK Press, Amazon, and select bookstores


Cynthia Dewi Oka was raised in Bali, Indonesia before her family migrated to Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, Canada. A ferocious reader, she began to write short stories as a ten-year-old to teach herself the English language and help her parents navigate new lives as immigrants. Profoundly shaped by her family’s faith and resilience in the face of displacement, poverty, exclusion, and illness, Cynthia began to write poems as a teenager. After becoming a young single mother and earning a B.A. Honors in Political Science from Simon Fraser University, she worked as a community organizer around issues of migrant, race, and gender justice. Feeling more and more urgently called to poetry, she decided to leave her Master’s studies in Anthropology to dedicate her focus to the craft.

She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and awarded the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry and an artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center She recently completed her second poetry collection (more news on that soon!) and True to her political roots, Cynthia has also joined the staff team at Grassroots Global Justice, a national alliance of US-based grassroots organizations rooted in working, poor, and communities of color. She lives and works in Collingswood, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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