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FIRE IS NOT A COUNTRY Launch with Cynthia Dewi Oka & Special Guests

November 18, 2021 @ 6:00 pm7:00 pm

Join Northwestern University Press on Thursday, November 18 at 7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central to celebrate the launch of Cynthia Dewi Oka’s FIRE IS NOT A COUNTRY (TriQuarterly Books; November 2021). Oka will be joined by special guests Aracelis Girmay, Airea Dee Matthews, Khairani Barokka, Yolanda Wisher, and Jenny Zhang.

Register here: https://bit.ly/3C9LWe0


• Please register to receive a link to the Zoom event via email. Attendees will also receive a discount code they may use to order a copy of the book.

• This event will be recorded.

• If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to Northwestern University Press through the “Contact” link at the bottom of this page.


In her third collection, Indonesian American poet Cynthia Dewi Oka dives into the implications of being parents, children, workers, and unwanted human beings under the savage 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.

As she builds a lyric portrait of her own family, Oka interrogates how migration, economic exploitation, patriarchal violence, and a legacy of political repression shape the beauties and limitations of familial love and obligation. Woven throughout are speculative experiments that intervene in the popular apocalyptic narratives of our time with the wit of an unassimilable other.

Oka’s speakers mourn, labor, argue, digress, avenge, and fail, but they do not retreat. Born of conflicts public and private, this collection is for anyone interested in what it means to engage the multitudes within ourselves.


“Reading Cynthia Dewi Oka is an EXPERIENCE. In Fire Is Not a Country, the devotional is alive and freed from those who have abused it. Reverence is as honorable as irreverence. Sorrow is subterranean and always fighting valiantly to come to the surface. Ghosts live vicariously through the living. The ancestors are calling and calling and calling. Sometimes images precede meaning and sometimes meaning creates images. Memory ‘is long / and bendy.’ This book is full of prisms to behold and textures to touch and so the rewards are manifold and delicious. How to describe something that is best experienced in the bodies we are in? ‘I have just begun to love / the little knives of which I’m made.’ I kept this book by my pillow for weeks. Night after night, I returned, wanting to experience it again.” —Jenny Zhang, author of My Baby First Birthday

“Cynthia Dewi Oka is a filmmaker. And yes there are screenplays in this text. But Oka is a filmmaker because of what she does with poetry, how she uses image to bring us in close, to make a whole landscape out of a grain of sand, out of the collar of a shirt. How does she bring us so close and yet show us everything. These poems are intimate worlds of political possibility. Cynthia Dewi Oka is directing these cinematic lifeworlds, but she is also the grip holding us so we can see, she is also the set designer taking everything apart and putting it back together so we know, so we know that this world is not given, it is made. And we can remake it.” —Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author of M Archive: After the End of the World

“In this fiercely brilliant book, Cynthia Dewi Oka cements her position as a poet who every single one of us should be reading and learning from. Funny, heartbreaking, filled with terror and degree of rigorous compassion one rarely sees in poems, Fire Is Not A Country achieves a formal range and virtuosity that really brought me to understand what the idea and practice of witness can mean in the hands and heart of a truly visionary poet. There’s so much to learn from Oka. So many ways to be in conversation with this book and, in turn, the world. Collaborative, theatrical, experimental, open-hearted. We need the poetry this book invites us into right now.” —Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of Rocket Fantastic


November 18, 2021
6:00 pm–7:00 pm

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