Reviews

“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

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“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 otherwordly, oftentimes fragmented.  It’s exciting to read a debut collection that is so strange, so loving, so fierce.”  PATRICK ROSAL

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“A feral freedom roams these pages. nomad of salt and hard water stuns 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

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“With fierce magic, Oka’s poems keep the reader guessing and thoroughly engaged as they map journeys between, among, and within the experiences of mothering, loving, wandering, and remembering.  A stunning exploration of transitions, Oka’s collection bursts with stark and haunting allure.”  DANI BURLISON, The Los Angeles Review 

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“A fierce testament and testimony, Nomad of Salt and Hard Water is poet Cynthia Dewi Oka’s first collection, published by Dinah Press. It manages to be simultaneously cinematic and intimate, much in the way a large metropolis like Los Angeles or New York City can be — millions of people feeling every human emotion while somehow as a whole, the city is so much larger than the details.”  KENJI LIU, LitPub

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“Oka’s poetic production, like her lived experience, is a composite, fragmented body made whole by performing many kinds of work at once… It is a lush circumvention that denies Manifest Destiny: a footpath powdered with the crushed jade and cloves of migrant struggle… For tongues that yearn for never learned or for forgotten languages – broken, whole or otherwise – Oka’s poetry is it.”  MERCEDES ENG, Briarpatch Magazine 

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“In, “Nomad of Salt and Hard Water,” Cynthia Dewi Oka takes us through the span of generations and memory, pain and triumph, as an attempt to join the metaphysical and tangible dimensions that we navigate in this life. I exhaled after almost every poem, as she is a poet who knows how to move in, around, and with language.”  SHAKEEMA SMALLS, Black in Context 

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“And Cynthia’s poetry teaches us to do the things we don’t know how to do, like how to live without home, how to say what must be said in our political movements when there is no jargon to say it, how to work with the integrity our ancestors are demanding.  As Cynthia’s narrator explains, “Poems come to stand in the place of our spines.” (37)  And this is the skeleton architecture of how Cynthia’s poems help us to stand where we think we cannot.”  ALEXIS PAULINE GUMBS, The Feminist Wire 

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