Marian Miner Cook

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Fire Is Not a Country: A Poetry Reading

Tue, February 8, 2022
Dinner Program
Cynthia Dewi Oka

In her third collection, award-winning Indonesian American poet Cynthia Dewi Oka dives into the implications of being parents, children, workers, and unwanted human beings under the reign of global capitalism and resurgent nativism. With a voice bound and wrestled apart by multiple histories, Fire Is Not a Country claims the spaces between here and there, then and now, us and not us. This collection is for anyone interested in what it means to engage the multitudes within ourselves.

Ms. Oka's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at CMC.

Photo credit: Jose Quintana

Author of Fire Is Not a Country (2021) and Salvage (2017) published by Northwestern University Press, and Nomad of Salt and Hard Water, first published by Dinah Press in 2012, with a second edition of new and revised poems published by Thread Makes Blanket in 2016, Cynthia Dewi Oka currently serves as a poetry editor at Kweli Journal and has performed in various venues across the US and internationally.

A 2021-2022 Poet in Residence at the Amy Clampitt House in Lenox, Massachusetts, she has been awarded the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award, the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, and the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry. She is an alum of the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Workshop and the Vermont Studio Center and earned her MFA as a Holden Minority Scholar at Warren Wilson College.

As a creative facilitator, she has offered workshops for a wide range of organizations and has also worked with young poets in high schools across New Jersey as a Geraldine R. Dodge Poet. In 2021, she led a week-long intensive workshop for emerging Indonesian writers in collaboration with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) and the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa.

For fifteen years, Oka worked as an organizer, trainer, and fundraiser in social movements for gender, racial, economic, and migrant justice. In 2020, she transitioned out of the nonprofit sector to focus on her artistic practice. As an immigrant and former young single mother with working-class roots, her aesthetics are guided by her core values: self-determination, collaboration, and attention to the peripheral.

(Adapted from

Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum

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