S1 E2 Cynthia OKA, Poet
From Bali Indonesia. Living in California, USA.
Born in Bali, Indonesia, where she lived until her family moved to Vancouver when she was 10 years old, Cynthia has lived her life as a mom, a poet, a teacher and a community organizer. Cynthia has just released her 4th collection of poetry, called a Tinderbox in Three Acts, published by BOA Editions, which tackles the genocide in her homeland head on, artfully and skillfully guiding us through its impact in her community and in her life.
In this interview, Cynthia relates her approach to poetry to her personal and family history, a life characterized by silence about their collective past. She explains how revision has been a particularly powerful tool that has helped her manage complexity in her life.
I have known Cynthia for many years and have been thinking about her for this podcast for a long time – for her fierce intelligence, her tough take-no-prisoners moral fiber, and the ways that she integrates it into someone who is sensitive and loving. You can learn more about Cynthia and about her work as a poet and community member on her website.
When asked for a song which is meaningful for her, Cynthia shared this beautiful song written by her son Paul OKA from one of her previous poems, Discernment. A warm thank you to Paul for this work, and for allowing us to share it on Cerdan Stories.
Thank you also to Montana Skies for their song Gringo Flamenco, which played at the beginning of this episode and which we got from Free Music Archives.
Thank you to Michaela Prell for her truly invaluable assistance in producing and editing this piece, which could not have happened without her.
Cerdan Stories is hosted by Rona Buchalter. I was previously director of Refugee Resettlement at HIAS-Pennsylvania and have a rich prior career in global education. Most importantly for Cerdan Stories, I have a passion for learning people's stories.
Finally, I would like to thank YOU for listening to this episode of Cerdan Stories.