“The Palace of Contemplating Departure” by Brynn Saito has been released by Pasadena-based Red Hen Press.
Saito’s debut collection of poetry begins in a cityscape and ends “deep in the cloud-filled valley,” traversing myriad terrains — both emotional and physical—as it weaves towards completion. From the bays of Denmark to the deserts of California, Saito’s searching lyricism gathers stories of sudden departures, forced removals, and the journeys chosen in between.
Narrative selections inspired by childhood, sisterhood, lost loves and newfound freedoms are cased by interludes of otherworldly visions and persona poems spoken from many perspectives — animal and otherwise.
This is a book about the ever-present capacity for wonder, transformation, and change: “The fighter is in me,” claims the speaker in the poem “Winter in Denmark,” “and the future is in me.” Inside every moment of rage or loss — beneath tough city sidewalks and under the quiet of a moonlit valley — is another moment, ripe with possibility and foretelling the future sky.
“From the first pages of this brilliant new book, readers will find a tough and vital vision that goes well beyond the personal, touching on aspects of American life you won’t have found expressed with such contemporary freshness and verve elsewhere,” said Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason. “This largeness never inflates to bombast, but is guided by sympathetic wit and edgy, memorable phrasings.
“In one of her poems, Brynn Saito writes, ‘It’s done: never again in my life / will I be only one thing.’ It’s her strong sense of mutability, even metamorphosis, I find most compelling. Real poetry by a real poet — one I expect to be reading for years to come.”
Saito is the winner of Red Hen Press’s Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, 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. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pleiades, and Drunken Boat, among other journals.
“No wonder that Brynn Saito, even at a young age, is already a member of the country’s literary establishment,” said Reed. “Even her student poetry attracted the attention of Dame Helen Vendler. I think it’s because unlike much of contemporary poetry, hers has depth.”
Saito also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, “Bright Power, Dark Peace,” a chapbook of poetry published by Diode Editions.
Born in the Central Valley to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father, Saito received an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in religious studies from New York University. Currently, she lives in the Bay Area and teaches in the Master of Fine Arts programs and the Bachelor of Arts Completion program at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.
On the Web: http://brynnsaito.com/
Saturday, April 13, at 3 p.m.: Eastwind Books with Pireeni Sundaralingam and Debbie Yee. 2066 University Ave., Berkeley. www.asiabookcenter.com/
Sunday, April 14, at 1 p.m.: United Japanese Christian Church, 136 N. Villa Ave., Clovis. www.ujcclife.com/
Monday, April 15, all day: Class visits and readings at Clovis East High School in Clovis. http://cehs.cusd.com/
Wednesday, April 17, at 2 p.m.: Class visit and reading at San Diego State University in San Diego. www.sdsu.edu/
Thursday, April 18 (time TBD): Pfau Library, Room 4005 with Traci Brimhall. Cal State San Bernardino, 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino. www.lib.csusb.edu/
Saturday, April 20, at 12 p.m.: L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC. http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/general-information/
Wednesday, May 15, at 7 p.m.: Upstart Crow Bookstore, 835C W. Harbor Drive, Seaport Village, San Diego. http://upstartcrowtrading.com/
Sunday, May 19 (time TBD): Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 4243 Manuela Ave., Palo Alto. www.aumcpa.org/
Saturday, May 25, at 7 p.m.: Eth-Noh-Tec Salon, 977 S. Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. www.ethnohtec.org/category/programs/salon/
Wednesday, June 12, at 8 p.m.: “Two Idiots Peddling Poetry” at the Ugly Mug Café, 261 N. Glassell Ave., Orange. www.poetryidiots.com/
Wednesday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m.: “Lyrics & Dirges” at Pegasus Books. 2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. www.pegasusbookstore.com/event/lyrics-and-dirges-monthly-reading-series-17
Saturday, Oct. 19 (time TBD): Lit Crawl with Kelly Davio, Jessica Piazza, Veronica Reyes, Tess Taylor. Venue TBD. San Francisco. http://litcrawl.org/sf/
Monday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m.: Moonday Poetry Reading. Aldersgate Retreat Center, 925 Haverford Ave., Pacific Palisades. www.moondaypoetry.com/