MFA Writers in Residence
The MFA in Creative Writing program at Sierra Nevada College has partnered with Kundiman and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) to offer annual Writer-in-Residence opportunities.
Fellows spend a month at SNC, where they present a public reading, participate in the MFA Residency, and are available to the English department. At the same time, the college’s intellectual resources and the beauty of the Tahoe area create ample time and space for the writer’s own creative process.
Kundiman is dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American literature.
Kundiman offers a comprehensive spectrum of arts programming that gives writers opportunities to inscribe their own stories, transforming and enriching the American literary landscape. Kundiman sees literature not only as vehicle for cultural expression but also as an instrument for political dialogue and self-empowerment.
The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is the only four-year degree fine arts institution in the nation devoted to contemporary Native American arts, including the Native peoples of the U.S., the Caribbean islands, and the First Nations people of Canada. Both Native and non-Native students are welcomed into its vibrant cultural campus mix, for undergraduate degrees in a variety of creative fields and graduate degrees in Creative Writing.
IAIA also operates the Center for Lifelong Education and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.
Kundiman, Winter 2018
"I think very deeply how language is used when talking about violence. I never want to perpetuate violence through language. So when I write about it… I try to do it in a way that will empower the Cambodian narrative, and most of the time I’m trying to write about love."
Poet Monica Sok was born and raised by Cambodian refugees in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Year Zero (Poetry Society of America, 2016) and has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Calabash/The Conversation Literary Festival, Elizabeth George Foundation, Hedgebrook, Fine Arts Work Center, Jerome Foundation, Kundiman, MacDowell Colony, Montalvo Arts Center, National Endowment for the Arts, Saltonstall Foundation, Stadler Center for Poetry, and others. Her poems appear in CONSEQUENCE Magazine, Kenyon Review, Narrative, POETRY, The New Republic, and TriQuarterly Review, among others. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University.
Quote from Sok's 2016 interview on The Rumpus
IAIA, Summer 2016
Story — the act of telling story and listening to story — is the most powerful tool we have as human beings to enact compassion and change.
Jamie Figueroa's work explores identity, familial relationships, place, culture, and ancestry. Taíno Puerto Rican by way of Ohio, she writes across genres including fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry.
Figueroa received her MFA and BFA in Creative Writing from The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. She has presented at the Native American Literary Symposium, the Indigenous Book Festival, SWAIA’s literary series, the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, and most recently at the Santa Fe Arts Institute. Jamie has also performed her poetry in collaboration with other artists of social justice, at events hosted by the National Hispanic Cultural Center including SALVE: Women in War, Women Warriors, and Mujeres y Mujeres. Her poetry and prose have been published in various literary journals including Hinchas de Poesia, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Flash: International, Eleven Eleven, Sin Fronteras, and EPOCH. She is a recipient of the Truman Capote Scholarship and the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award.
Jamie has been active with the nonprofits Littleglobe, El Otro Lado, and The Cut+Paste Society, organizations where art and creative practice merge with social activism. Her students have included middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, and a diverse cross-section of adults from the greater Santa Fe community. Currently, she runs a writing and editing business called NEXT Page Consultancy, providing customized support for creative writers.
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Kundiman, Winter 2016
"I am interested in the huge range of experience that can be accessed or created with the craft and play of language . . . I think this is because singing and saying offer up different thresholds and challenges and revelations to the reader."
"Yearling is about adolescence and the transformative stuff that shapes it, so the book is obsessed with initiations, ordeals, and homecomings, or lacks thereof. The links between humanity and animality are a recurring theme, as is the question of how certain forces may grant or deny someone their personhood.
The greatest goal I have for Yearling is for it to sing, rather than to say."
Lo Kwa Mei-en is the author of Yearling (Alice James Books, 2015) and The Bees Make Money in the Lion (2016), and winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center open competition. She is from Singapore and Ohio, where she lives and works in Cincinnati.
"I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for the time given to me by the Kundiman Residency at Sierra Nevada College. The opportunity to focus on my work in the natural beauty near Lake Tahoe was a gift, and having access to Prim Library made such a positive impact on my time there. In addition, the time spent with the SNC faculty and students during the MFA residency was meaningful to me; the community acts as a family, and extended such a welcome to me that it was hard to see them go."
-- Lo Kwa Mei-en, February 2016
Cathy Linh Che
Kundiman, Winter 2015
"My family's story and my story is a part of this larger patterning: 'This is what trauma looks like;' 'This is what suffering looks like;' 'This is metamorphosis looks like;' and 'This is how one endures.'"
author website: cathylinhche.com
Cathy Linh Che is the author of Split (Alice James, 2014), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.
A Vietnamese American poet from Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA, she received her BA from Reed College and her MFA from New York University. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from Poets & Writers, The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, Kundiman, Hedgebrook, Poets House, The Asian American Literary Review, The Center for Book Arts, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace Residency, and a Jerome Foundation Travel Grant.
She is founding editor of the online journal Paperbag, Publicity & Events Associate at Kaya Press, and Executive Director at Kundiman.
Kundiman, Winter 2014
"I was raised within the Japanese Buddhist and Christian communities—a strange and dynamic spiritual brew!—and those cultural contexts imprinted my orientation to The Word and The World in powerful and unnamable ways."
author website: www.brynnsaito.com
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.
“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