Rochester, NY— BOA Editions, Ltd. will publish A Tinderbox in Three Acts by Cynthia Dewi Oka as the next Blessing the Boats Selections title. Oka will receive a $5,000 honorarium, and her manuscript will be published in September 2022 as part of the American Poets Continuum Series. A Tinderbox in Three Acts is the second selection by Blessing the Boats Selections Editor-at-Large Aracelis Girmay.
Girmay said of the collection: “I cannot say enough how critical this work is for its history, specificity, and devotion. At its center churn insurmountable, incomprehensible brutalities. These are the facts. But Oka and her fellow organizers, researchers, artists, carriers of this history are also facts. With imagination and the sharpest tools, she cuts opening after opening into the page. This book is a fire. A ceremony. An unburying. It is a tremendous honor to walk behind Cynthia and this truly essential work.”
In her fourth poetry collection, Cynthia Dewi Oka performs a lyric accounting of the anti-Communist genocide of 1965, which, led by the Indonesian military and with American assistance, erased and devastated millions of lives in Indonesia. Under the New Order dictatorship that ruled by terror for over three decades in the aftermath, perpetrators of the killings were celebrated as national heroes while survivors were systemically silenced. Drawing on US state documents that were only declassified in recent years, Oka gives form and voice to the ghosts that continue to haunt subsequent generations despite decades of state-produced amnesia and disinformation. In service of recovering what must not be remembered, A Tinderbox in Three Acts repurposes the sanitized lexicon of official discourse, imagines an emotional syntax for the unthinkable, and employs synesthetic modes of perception to convey that which exceeds language. Here, the boundary between singular and collective consciousness is blurred. Here, history as an artifact of the powerful is trumped by the halting memory of those power sought to destroy. Where memory fails, here is poetry to honor the dishonored, the betrayed, the lost and still-awaited for.
Cynthia Dewi Oka is the author of Fire Is Not a Country (2021) and Salvage (2017) from Northwestern University Press, and Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (2016) from Thread Makes Blanket Press. A recipient of the Amy Clampitt Residency, Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, and the Leeway Transformation Award, her writing appears in The Atlantic, POETRY, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Hyperallergic, Guernica, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her experimental poem, “Future Revisions,” was exhibited at the Rail Park billboard in Philadelphia in summer 2021. An alumnus of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she has taught creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, New Mexico State University and Voices of Our Nations (VONA). She is originally from Bali, Indonesia.
Blessing the Boats Selections, named after celebrated poet Lucille Clifton’s National Book Award-winning collection Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988–2000, and in recognition of Clifton’s enduring legacy, spotlights poetry collections by women of color. The Selections launched in April 2020 with support from a $10,000 grant from the Amazon Literary Partnership Poetry Fund and the Academy of American Poets. Previous Blessing the Boats Selections titles include Casual Conversation by Renia White (BOA, 2022), Year of the Dog by Deborah Paredez (BOA, 2020), and Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes (BOA, 2020). In 2020, BOA received a generous grant from the Lannan Foundation of Santa Fe, NM, which allowed for an increased honorarium and the hiring of an Editor-at-Large to curate Blessing the Boats Selections, and supported the publication of Casual Conversation.
The next open reading period for the Blessing the Boats Selections will take place in August 2022. Submission details are available at boaeditions.org/BTB.