Poetry Is Not A Luxury

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

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.


:: Related Programming For This Exhibition ::

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

This event takes place online. RSVP is required via Eventbrite

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 will be given by Jeff Thomas (Executive Director, SFCB) and Corina Reynolds (Executive Director, CBANY); exhibiting artists will offer commentary on their work in the exhibition. Curator Maymanah Farhat will be on hand to answer questions.


August 7, 2020 :: Poetry Is Not A Luxury exhibiting artist Christine Wong Yap shares her studio via Instagram Live -- THIS EVENT HAS PASSED.

Join SFCB on our Instagram feed as Queens, NY based artist Christine Wong Yap(link is external) takes over in the afternoon! Christine will host a virtual tour of her studio space via Instagram Live; all you need to do is grab your phone or jump online and head over to SFCB's Instagram feed (@sanfranciscocenterforthebook) at 3 pm. PLEASE NOTE: viewers will need to log in to their Instagram account via a mobile device or computer desktop in order to view this event.