nomad of salt and hard water: poems

By Cynthia Dewi Oka

Revelation lines Cynthia Dewi Oka’s poems as a girl comes into motherhood singing the waves between shadow and illumination; compass and map; Bali and Turtle Island.  Stars and chili rinds, ocean and legend, altar and tent city, reverence-irreverence speaks through this debut collection with the sound of thunder and unflinching eye of a poet. nomad of salt and hard water celebrates journey; its relentless precision of language hums a threnody at once hymn and lifesong.

“Cynthia Oka’s book alternates between wailing lamentation and aphorism, mothersong and immigrant litany. Oka’s nomad suggests blessing and barter: ‘Trade your compass for mine.’ It’s true, the maps need new legends and luckily they can be redrawn entirely with this book of trickster verse. I love the variety of landscapes set down in these poems and the ways the poems themselves become varieties of landscape–tropics, desert, sea, city, the body itself–sometimes familiar, sometimes otherworldly, oftentimes fragmented. It’s exciting to read a debut collection that is so strange, so loving, so fierce.” -Patrick Rosal, author of Boneshepherds and My American Kundiman, winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award

“Cynthia Oka’s poetry confronts the uncomfortable, the secret, and emerges with verse so sharp, so true, that as a reader it’s impossible not to be galvanized; if not toward the admission of a lie then toward the embracement of love in all its nomadic majesty.  You better take a deep breath before you read Oka’s poetry.” -Willie Perdomo, author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely, winner of the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award

“A feral freedom roams these pages. nomad of salt and hard water stuns us with its fierce beauty, instills wonder for what survives the brutality of history, broken, bittersweet, and brilliant.  I am heartened by the courage that ripples through Oka’s journeys. Quiver. Listen. Commit. ‘choose instinct. chisel yourself’ into this world of honesty and resilience.” -Rita Wong, author of forage and monkeypuzzle, winner of the Dorothy Livesay Prize

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