Sunday, December 18, 2016

[Poet Spotlight] Brynn Saito

For this Poet Spotlight, I'm looking at Brynn Saito who is the author of two books of poetry, this year's Power Made Us Swoon (2016) and The Palace of Contemplating Departure (2013), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and finalist for the Northern California Book Award. She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace, a chapbook of poetry from Diode Editions.

Power Made Us Swoon caught my attention because of the questions she's taking on with the themes of the Woman Warrior. A number of her earlier poems addressed this in The Normal School. Red Hen Press is presenting it as "A lyrical journey through family legacies, silenced histories, and the possibilities of transformation, guided by the ruthless, witty, and vulnerable voice of a mythic woman warrior."

Given that, I'll have to do an extended reading of this to see if Power Made Us Swoon might also be fully classified as a book of speculative poetry, but that's what make the field engaging and challenging presently.

Brynn Saito was born and raised in Fresno, California to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father. Her poetry has appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Poetry Northwest, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. One example of her style I keep re-reading is her piece "Like Any Good American," at the Academy of American Poets.

She's been receiving numerous accolades over the years, including a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship, as well as the Poets 11 award from the San Francisco Public Library, and the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award.

In an interesting case of six degrees of separation, she is the Director of the Center for Writing and Scholarship at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), where I'd recently done some studying for a different progam, although our paths never crossed over there.

Brynn Saito's debut collection of poetry was also from Red Hen Press. The Palace of Contemplating Departure has a focus on "sudden departures, forced removals, and the journeys chosen in between." She explores themes of childhood, sisterhood, lost loves and newfound freedoms. Otherworldly visions and persona poems often punctuate the text. "This is a book about the ever-present capacity for wonder, transformation, and change," her publishers state. You can read her book's eponymous poem over at Drunken Boat.

Additionally, she is a co-founder and Director of the Center for Spiritual Life and teaches in Kearny Street Workshop's Interdisciplinary Writers Lab for Bay Area writers of color. Her education includes degrees in philosophy, religious studies and creative writing, and it's clear to see she's applied them all on her path.

Be sure to check out more of her work and writing at

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