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Brynn Saito MFA '08
Brynn Saito had completed her bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley and was in the process of completing her master’s in religious studies at NYU when she experienced her epiphany: what she really wanted to do was be a poet and not a scholar of religion.
"Living in NYC, with its sheer concentration of artists and art events, showed me that poetry had the capacity to create communities, sharpen the mind, and enliven the spirit."
Brynn took the plunge and applied for the two MFA programs in the New York City area that would allow her to work within the genres of poetry and nonfiction (nonfiction being something she also pursued at NYU). She applied to The New School and Sarah Lawrence College—eventually choosing Sarah Lawrence, where she was lured by the quality of the professors.
"Besides the opportunity to write across genres, I was drawn to the idea of working with great poets like Marie Howe, Tina Chang, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Cathy Park Hong, Suzanne Gardinier, Vijay Seshadri, D. Nurkse, Jeffrey McDaniel, and many more. I wanted to learn from some of the best and brightest in the field of contemporary poetry and writing, you might say."
Aside from the quality of mentorship that she received at Sarah Lawrence, Brynn loved the small workshops and the one-on-one conferences with the MFA faculty.
"I also loved Sarah Lawrence’s sense of community, exhibited in part by the wonderful annual free Poetry Festival that I had the chance to direct in 2008. The Festival was an opportunity to collaborate with undergraduate poets, meet world-renowned writers, and showcase young Bronxville poets from local high schools. It was a life-changing experience in that it connected me with so many amazing poets from across the country."
Brynn regards her time at Sarah Lawrence as a gift. Sarah Lawrence is where she made life-long friendships with poets such as fellow MFA grad and prize-winning writer, Traci Brimhall. It’s where she forged close friendships with mentors such as Tina Chang—Brooklyn's Poet Laureate.
"Sarah Lawrence is where I found my readers: those folks who read and respond to my first drafts and encourage me to write during times of silence. Tina Chang introduced me to Kundiman: an organization of Asian American poets, a group that has been sustaining my writing life since 2008."
After graduation, Brynn moved back to California, where she continued to collaborate with Traci Brimhall. Together they wrote a chapbook of poems that was recently published by Diode Press—one of a number of notable highlights in Brynn’s flourishing teaching and writing careers.
"I continued honing and revising my MFA poetry manuscript for publication. Eventually, in 2011, it won the Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press and was published in March, 2013. It's called The Palace of Contemplating Departure. Currently, I teach as an assistant professor of writing, poetry, and interdisciplinary arts at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and Sofia University in Palo Alto. I am working on my second book of poems. I'm also working on a nonfiction collection about my time meditating and learning martial arts at a Buddhist temple in South Korea."