Poetry Is Not A Luxury

Exhibition Run Dates :: Friday, July 10 – Sunday, December 20, 2020

In compliance with San Francisco's shelter-in-place mandate issued November 29, 2020, SFCB has temporarily suspended gallery appointments at this time. Please view our related online exhibition programs and events via our Vimeo page.


Exhibition curator :: Maymanah Farhat

San Francisco Center for the Book gratefully acknowledges the loan of this exhibition from

The Center for Book Arts in New York City, NY.

POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY considers how book arts have contributed to the recording of oppositional subjectivities in the U.S. The exhibition is titled after Audre Lorde’s 1977 essay on the intersections of creativity and activism that were not only essential to her own work but to a diverse group of feminist thinkers at the time. Recognizing that both creative work and activism are driven by subjectivity, Lorde argues that for women poetry is not a luxury but a vital necessity, as it provides a framework through which survival and the desire for change can be articulated, conceptualized, and transformed into meaningful action.

POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY features artists who approach book arts in a similar way, namely as experimental media that foreground subjectivity and lend to intimate aesthetic experiences with the aim of drawing attention to sociopolitical issues. Since the mid twentieth century, artist books, broadsides, mail art, and zines have been essential to artists seeking to bring greater awareness to ongoing marginalization and oppression (e.g. incarceration, gentrification, immigration, and war), arguably due to the widely recognizable and accessible nature of these art forms.

Featured artists:

Aurora De Armendi with Adriana Mendez Rodenas; Zeina Barakeh; Janine Biunno; Ana Paula Cordeiro; Joyce Dallal; Nancy Genn; Gelare Khoshgozaran; Brenda Louie; Nancy Morejon with Ronaldo Estevez Jordan and Marciel Ruiz; Katherine Ng; Miné Okubo; Martha Rosler; Zeinab Saab; Jacqueline Reem Salloum; Patricia Sarrafian Ward; Jana Sim; Sable Elyse Smith; Patricia Tavenner; Christine Wong Yap; and Helen Zughaib.

Exhibition curated by Maymanah Farhat and organized by The Center for Book Arts in New York. Support for the Center for Book Arts’ Visual Arts Program is provided, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


Exhibition Sponsors :: SFCB would like to thank the following patrons and lenders for their support of SFCB’s exhibition program:

Grants For The Arts | The Kahle Austin Foundation | Anonymous | The Chuck Welch Eternal Network Mail Art Archive


Exhibition Catalog :: A fully illustrated catalog of this exhibition will be available for purchase from SFCB's online store.


The College Book Art Association recently published articles by curator Maymanah Farhat and Exhibitions Manager Jennie Hinchcliff about this exhibition:




Past programming for this exhibition:

(ONLINE) November 12, 2020, 5 - 6 pm PDT :: The Persistent Imagery of Miné Okubo

Miné Okubo was a Japanese American artist and illustrator born in Riverside, CA. Due to President Roosevelt's Evacuation Order 9066 in 1942, Okubo and her family were forced to vacate their home. Her artistic endeavors while interned led to an employment opportunity in NYC via Fortune magazine. POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY curator Maymanah Farhat presents an overview of the life and work of Miné Okubo during this evening event, while showing examples of Okubo's work currently on display in SFCB's gallery.

(ONLINE) October 16, 2020, 5 - 6 pm PDT :: Tour the Exhibition with curator Maymanah Farhat

Curator Maymanah Farhat will introduce attendees to works in the exhibition and share insights related to the artists and their work. This event was recorded and can be viewed via SFCB's Vimeo channel.

(ONLINE) September 18, 2020, 4 - 6 pm PDT :: Poetry Is Not A Luxury Artist Reception

Join SFCB as we celebrate the exhibiting artists & work of our Fall 2020 exhibition "POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY"!

We're excited to introduce our Fall 2020 exhibition "POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY" to online audiences! Organized by the Center for Book Arts in New York, "POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY" considers how book arts have contributed to the recording of oppositional subjectivities in the United States. Opening remarks given by Jeff Thomas (Executive Director, SFCB) and Corina Reynolds (Executive Director, CBANY); exhibiting artists offered commentary on their work in the exhibition. Curator Maymanah Farhat was on hand to answer questions.

(ONLINE) August 7, 2020 :: Poetry Is Not A Luxury exhibiting artist Christine Wong Yap shares her studio

Queens, NY artist Christine Wong Yap(link is external) hosted a virtual tour of her studio space via Instagram Live in order to discuss her working process, current projects, and her San Francisco installation Hopes For Chinatown.