Congrats, dear Brynn!
Tell me a little bit about what (or who) inspired this poem. Was this based upon an actual experience you had as the invisible "you"?
This poem arrived at one of the oddest moments. I was in a hostel in Seville and I couldn't sleep because of the pressing summer heat. I didn't want to turn on the light and disturb my roommate, so I started writing in the dark. When one is writing in the dark, there's a sense of urgency that keeps the pen moving across the page sightlessly. It's wonderful. There's also an inability to do the thing which can hinder the flow: compulsively re-read every word, tending to the lines like a tireless gardener. I wrote until a story I heard as a child spilled itself sideways across the unlit pages, the story of my Japanese American grandmother, Alma, lying about her race in order to avoid harassment during the war years (before her and my grandfather were eventually interned in Arizona). I recorded the story as it came to me then, in that airless pensione. Then, I wrote: "You never have to lie to survive," as if my tiny, sturdy, white-haired grandmother were standing above me, saying those exact words. "So what will you do with your freedom?"
Read the rest of the interview here.
Brynn Saito is the author of poetry collection The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award and forthcoming from Red Hen Press in March 2013. Her poem, “Alma, 1942” is featured in Hyphen Issue 26. We asked her to record a reading of her poem, and then talked to her a little bit about the poem, her forthcoming book, and her thoughts on the direction of Asian American poetry.