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How to Be Haunted: Poets of the Between (online event)
December 20, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PST
On Tuesday, December 20 at 6pm, join Massy Arts Society and Massy Books for a stunning line-up of writers critical for our times in How to Be Haunted: Poets of the Between—featuring Cynthia Dewi Oka, Hari Alluri, Cecily Nicholson and Mercedes Eng.
From ghosts through declassified documents to pulses of childhood memory, these authors weave lyrical connections between their lived experience, the histories they carry and words that echo throughout time.
This project has been made possible by the Government of Canada. Ce projet a été rendu possible grâce au gouvernement du Canada.
Registration is free, open to all and required.
Purchase signed copies of poets’ latest works through Massy Books.
Venue & Accessibility
Update: Due to the snow, the event will be hosted online.
Cynthia Dewi Oka is the author of four books of poems, most recently A Tinderbox in Three Acts (BOA Editions, 2022) and Fire Is Not a Country (Northwestern University Press, 2021). A recipient of the Amy Clampitt Residency, Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, and the Leeway Transformation Award, her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Oprah Daily, POETRY, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Hyperallergic, Andscape, and elsewhere. An alumnus of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she has taught creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, New Mexico State University, Blue Stoop, and Voices of Our Nations (VONA). Originally from Bali, Indonesia, Cynthia worked as an organizer, trainer, and fundraiser in social movements for justice that center the experiences of the global majority for fifteen years. She lives in Los Angeles.
Hari Alluri (he/him/siya) is a migrant poet of Filipinx and South Indian descent on unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples and Kwantlen, Katzie, and Kwikwetlem lands of Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking peoples. Recipient of the Vera Manuel Award, he is author of The Flayed City (Kaya) and chapbooks The Promise of Rust (Mouthfeel) and Our Echo of Sudden Mercy (Next Page Press), writer-director of Pasalubong (NFB/ONF), and co-editor of We Were Not Alone (Community Building Art Works). Siya has received grants, fellowships, and residencies from the BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, The Capilano Review, Deer Lake, and others. His work appears through these venues and elsewhere: Dream Marrow catalogue (exhibit—on now at Burnaby Art Gallery), Poetry, PRISM International, and—via Split This Rock—Best of the Net 2022.
Cecily Nicholson is the author of four books and a past recipient of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. She was the Ellen and Warren Tallman Writer-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University and the Write- in-Residence at the University of Windsor. She teaches at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and collaborates with community impacted by carcerality and food insecurity.
Mercedes Eng is the author of Mercenary English, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes, winner of the BC Poetry Prize, and my yt mama. Her writing has appeared in Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry, Jacket 2, Asian American Literary Review, The Abolitionist, r/ally (No One Is Illegal), and Survaillance and M’aidez (Press Release). Mercedes is the Writer-in-Residence and a Shadbolt Fellow at Simon Fraser University.
A Tinderbox in Three Acts by Cynthia Dewi Oka–elected by Aracelis Girmay–is at once elegy and exegesis, fact and invention. 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 the people whom power sought to destroy. Where memory fails, here is poetry to honour the dishonoured, the betrayed, the lost and still-awaited.
Our Echo of Sudden Mercy by Hari Alluri searches for the tenuous places where grief and joy entwine. At turns meditative, irreverent, and tender, the poems trace these threads through multiple forms of loss—personal and familial, cultural and planetary, quiet and violent—by encountering and moving through the everyday. “We have always been the consequence of stories,” they intone. Here, attentive to the ode in downbeats of lament, Alluri finds a restorative poetry: that the incantatory in the fragmented can be heard as a form of wholeness, that displacement can become a way of being in the world, one which holds and is held by listening, by care and collaboration.
HARROWINGS by Cecily Nicholson connects with Black intellectual and art history in relation to agriculture. Set mainly in the rural, the poems include pulses of memoir from the poet’s childhood growing up on a farm, as well as from more recent pandemic experiences volunteering for a local agricultural enterprise led by people who were formerly incarcerated. Tropes of tradition and supremacy are confronted in this study of biome, plants, and soil. Despite episodic and chronic illness, and by way of practical tasks such as sowing, pruning, and watering, the poetry advances with love towards abolitionist futures.
my yt mama by Mercedes Eng is a collection of poems that considers historic and contemporary colonial violence in the Canadian prairies, a settler geography and state of mind that irrevocably shaped Eng’s understanding of race as person of colour born and raised in Treaty 7 Territory in Medicine Hat, Alberta. In the follow-up to her BC Book Prize-winning book of poetry, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes, Mercedes Eng continues her poetic investigation of racism and colonialism in Canada, weaponizing the language of the nation-state against itself in the service of social justice.