by Cynthia Dewi Oka

“So much beauty is made from sorrow in this book, while silence ‘swarms like  beetles.’ Here is an escape from ‘our slanderous past taking / root in potholed sidewalks,’ and here also the litany of arrival in North American suburbia, where Orpheus is mugged in the city of brotherly love and even Lazarus reconsiders his awakening. This book gives us both the refugee’s map of North America and a window to the world beyond. I love this book’s invention, as Dewi Oka summons up the courage to rage and grieve: ‘Let memory make of me a scream that wasn’t there.’ What a powerful plea! I love the many kinds of tenderness on these pages, Dewi Oka’s attentiveness to detail, the wonderful gift of seeing poetry in the custodial, in the tragic: so even if tears come, they are ‘like small stubborn / gods refusing to fall.’ I love the mythical depth, the civic outcry, the lyric inventiveness of these poems. But most of all, I love how how beautifully music is made patiently from the sorrow, how a human ‘holds his breath, secretly / chains to a single note all the mutinies inside him–‘. A powerful book.
— Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa 

“We are in the thick of the sludge of salvage, in an age of greedy locusts who are making plans to own and suck down anything they perceive of value.  Add vitriolic race hate verbiage, and visionaries are bound to emerge. Cynthia Dewi is one of these visionaries, a word prophet. She writes with one foot in time, the other in timelessness. These poems in her newest collection Salvage are small fires to light the way. They are lit by urgent need. With these poems, we will make it through.”
— Joy Harjo

“Salvage is a necessary collection of poems that steadily pushes us not only to witness our world and surroundings, but to engage with both the stunning and the brutal, to hold both the dirt and the beauty, to oscillate between the guttural and the want, and to look so deeply at love and how it can sometimes erupt and feel broken—how to keep honoring it.”
— Ellen Hagan, author of Hemisphere: Poems

Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Pub Date: December 1, 2017
104 pages. $16.95
ISBN: 978-0-8101-3629-8
Available: Northwestern University Press
Your favorite indie bookseller (just ask by title and author)


CYNTHIA DEWI OKA is the author of the poetry collection Nomad of Salt and Hard Water. Born and raised in Bali, Indonesia, she emigrated to Canada and later to the United States. Originally a painter and pianist by training, with a background in community organizing around issues of migrant justice, indigenous sovereignty, violence against women, and gentrification, her creative work is passionate and speaks for vulnerable and marginalized communities. She has performed her work at the New School, Bluestockings, Busboys and Poets, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, and Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Oka is an alumna of the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Writing Workshop, the recipient of a 2014 artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center, and serves as the poetry editor for Generations Literary Journal.

She is a recipient of Fifth Wednesday Journal’s Editor’s Prize in Poetry. She resides Philadelphia.


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