Brynn Saito composed and memorized “The Palace of Contemplating Departure” before ever setting pen to paper—and before a gathering at New Haven’s Koffee? got to hear her recite it.
The California poet usually works with her emerging poems on paper before memorizing them. “The Palace” came out different. She committed it to memory while wandering the streets of San Francisco and listening to music. Eventually it became the title of a published collection of poems that would win her the 2011 Benjamin Saltman Award, allowing Red Hen Press to print and bind her work after nearly a decade of writing.
She came to Koffee? on Audubon for a poetry gig Tuesday night en route from Boston and Kalamazoo. Click on the play arrow above to watch her recite the poem.
The end of a relationship inspired the beginning of “The Palace of Contemplating Departure.” After finishing an MA in religious studies at NYU and an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, where she wrote the bulk of the poems included in her book, Saito left her partner and New York City in a flurry of life transitions. “The unknown is so terrifying,” said Saito, but she managed to make good on her deep-rooted desire to become a writer anyway. Quoting a Zen saying, Saito explained, “leap, and the net will appear.”
“Having the courage to leave” undergirds the entire book, according to Saito.
“Poetry for me is a way to get silent,” said Saito. Yet, as she writes, she typically listens to music; Saito even created the title poem in the “magical ruckus of the world,” among the sights and sounds of the Bay Area. Saito explained that, even amid noise, her poetry “help[s] me hear myself… and tap what’s true in me at that moment.”
Saito read nine poems Tuesday night. She read “The Palace of Contemplating Departure” second, looking down at the paper during the last two stanzas, before a muted round of applause.
“But where will I go now with my tireless wonder?/And when will I again be brave like that?”
After Koffee, Saito gave another reading at Gryphon’s Pub at Yale’s Graduate and Professional Student Center. Wednesday, she headed to New York before flying back to the West Coast to return to her job teaching MFA and BA students at the California Institute of Integral Studies on weekends. The free weekdays allow time for Saito’s own writing, including a second book in the works, and travel to promote her first book. Nevertheless, Saito is “still figuring out if it’s a good fit for me.”