The MFA in Creative Writing program at Sierra Nevada College has partnered with Kundiman to offer an annual Writer-in-Residence opportunity. Each January, a Kundiman fellow will spend a month at SNC, where they present a public reading, participate in panels and meet with the MFA students during their Winter Residency, and are available to the English department. At the same time, we hope that the college’s intellectual resources and the beauty of the Tahoe area will create ample time and space for the writer’s own creative process.

Kundiman is dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American poetry. Kundiman creates an affirming and rigorous space where Asian American poets can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever changing diaspora. We see the arts as a tool of empowerment, of education and liberation, of addressing proactively what legacy we will leave for our future generations as individuals and as a community.

2014 Kundiman Fellow Brynn Saito

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Brynn Saito is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press (2013). She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace, a chapbook of poetry from Diode Editions (2013). Her work has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed, and has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Pleiades.

Brynn was born in California’s Central Valley to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father. She is the recipient of a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship, the Poets 11 award from the San Francisco Public Library, and the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award. Brynn lives in the Bay Area and teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies and Sofia University.

www.brynnsaito.com


“One of the best things about being the Kundiman Writer-in-Residence at Sierra Nevada College is the library. Lit with the warm glow of table lamps, surrounded by pines, and cased in by high ceilings and dark wood walls, Prim Library houses SNC’s burgeoning Poetry Center—a (how many?)-book collection of poetry (and writing about poetry) that’s steadily growing. In the afternoons, I’d sit for hours, pouring over, devouring, re-reading, listening: Maxine Hong Kingston, Franz Wright, Larry Levis, Jane Hirshfield, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Gregory Orr, Cathy Park Hong, Dawn Lundy Martin, etcetera, and so on, until sundown. Such is the blessing of a month-long residency: time, space, books, beauty.

Many fruitful and unexpected things happened over the course of January: I devised a working structure for my second book, started a lyric essay, wrote a handful of new poems, and wrote a letter each night to a dear friend, narrating the day, describing to her the discoveries—both inner and outer—as they were unfolding. None of this activity would have been possible without the warm welcome from Sierra Nevada College: from the start of the residency, I was heartily brought into the MFA community by program director and poet, Brian Turner. While the MFA faculty and students were in residence, I had a number of transformative conversations about writing, poetry, and professional opportunities—conversations that gave me the confidence to commit more fully to my life as a poet. Later in the month, I visited with English Department Chair June Saraceno’s BFA students, sharing with them my background as a poet and educator. The mix of community/classroom engagement and long periods of solitude was, for me, ideal.

During those moments of solitude, I wrote—or, I stumbled through the uncharted terrain of the blank page, sometimes clumsily, sometimes joyfully. Confronted with the clarity of the lake, the cool mountain air, the bright moonlight and blinding sun, my mind was sharpened and my body, relaxed: I was alive, awake, and alert to the creative potential of each day—qualities I hope to carry with me into this new year.”

– Brynn Saito