Brynn Saito

Brynn Saito is the author of the poetry collection The Palace of Contemplating Desire, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award and forthcoming from Red Hen Press in March, 2013. 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. Brynn was born in the Central Valley of California to a Korean-American mother and a Japanese-American father. She received an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in religious studies from NYU. Currently, Brynn lives in the Bay Area and teaches in San Francisco.

All Books

Power Made Us Swoon

Brynn Saito

Publication Date: April 14, 2016

$11.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-991-2


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.

Guided by the character of the Woman Warrior–witty, swift, and ruthless in her wonder—readers of Brynn Saito’s second collection of poetry travel the terrain of personal and historical memory: narrative poems about family, farming towns, and the bravery of girlhood are interspersed with lyric poetry written from the voice of a stone found in a Japanese American internment camp during the wartime incarceration. What histories can be summoned with poetry? What are the forces shaping an American life in the 21st century? Car accidents, patriarchy, and television fall under this poet’s gaze, along with the intergenerational reverberations of historical trauma. As with The Palace of Contemplating Departure, Saito’s first award-winning collection, Power Made Us Swoon strives for wonder and speaks–in edgy and vulnerable tones—of the fraught journey toward a more just world. “Learn to lie to survive,” sings the woman warrior, “Learn to outlast the flame / learn the art of surprise.”


“Seeing from positions on a 360-degree angle, Brynn’s surprise shifts in perspective can come sudden, from behind herself, describing the curve of her own spine, or from the eyes and sensibilities of stones witnessing construction of an internment camp, or from within an imaginary thought, a what if, a conversation with sky or ghosts, a bloody memory. Hers is a view from outside witnessing human experience—of nature itself watching. These time-and space-expanding images, requiring the skill of well-wrought poetry—poetry with a poetic—stay with the reader, and merge with a greater emotional, philosophical, and spiritual meaning. Electric kaleidoscopic imagery, yet the center holds its intention/s. Wouldn’t it be amazing to write like this.”—Judy Grahn

“Between worlds do it sometimes seem move the forces of an inconnotable world and so Brynn Saito’s poems engage them on a level of narrative and lyric that be sometimes sorcerous, sometimes medicinal. The questions this book asks of its mythological and actual heroes are questions I want to know the answers to. Her own are brave—sure, you can expect that much—but they are also beautiful. As the poet reassures herself, “Your spirit is a songstress / occupying the sea.”—Kazim Ali

The Palace of Contemplating Departure

Brynn Saito

Publication Date: March 1, 2013

$16.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-716-1


Brynn 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.

Praise for The Palace of Contemplating Departure:

“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. 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.”—David Mason, Colorado Poet Laureate

“No wonder that Brynn Saito, even at a young age, is already a member of the country’s literary establishment. Even her student poetry attracted the attention of Dame Helen Vendler. I think it’s because unlike much of contemporary poetry, hers has depth.”—Ishmael Reed