And Happy Mother’s Day to Billie, Too: Her Sweeth 16th!

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May 112014

A little something for my lovely bride Billie, as she celebrates her 16th Mother’s Day, no small feat, I tell you…:


BillieWhether You are Listening or You are Reading

there is a poem for you and it may
be like this poem for my wife

who listens to a podcast and sometimes
laughs so hard her earbuds drop

and she looks at me and smiles, shares
the story of the actress and her monologue

or the man who unwittingly confesses
his most embarrassing moment on the radio

before she tucks the tiny white speakers
back into her ears. On the other side

of the table I slip into a book of poems,
sometimes nodding or clicking my tongue

in agreement before looking away
to the shelves across the room, the white

antler discovered in a saffron field,
or the photographs of my daughters

who are asleep now in their rooms,
Juliet curled beneath a quilt of flowers,

Ann-Elise bent across her black blanket,
foot draped over the bedframe, the house quiet

except for those burbling springs of laughter
and the murmur of turning pages

as I think of you again, listening or reading—
the poem paused by the person you love.


Originally appeared in Re)verb.

Her Mission of Light

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May 112014

On Mother’s Day, remembering my mom, Diana Anne-Marie Estelle Gunilla von Schinkel Bancroft, who passed away nearly ten years ago:

Diana-Bancroft-smHer Mission of Light

Seven months after the death of my mother,
the corpulent C-130s circling the air base

remind me how, when she was nine,
the Swedish girl they called matchstick legs

(who could sprint the sandy length
of seaside lane in record time) first heard

and then saw the Nazi bombers
in their razor-tight formations scraping

the low chin of the horizon, en route
to Norway and dark England beyond.

She too passed like a recondite
mission, whispering from 17,000 feet,

a near-anonymous entry into the endless log
of the world’s migrations. Sixty-one years

later, I take the vacant road past
the base’s back gate, along the brilliantly

destructive rows of F-4s and A-10s,
with their own secret missions to

Vietnam and Bosnia and Iraq, places
she could have lived in her 1950s

migration to America—places like the vast
and abundant plains of Rhodesia or

the golden avenues of Naples and Rome.
The street here is not glowing, nor

full of life. But it leads to the blue
hills beyond the river, and from there

the scarlet cliffs of the Santa Catalinas—
and sometimes, as now, the light off a curving

wing catches and holds the mountains and clouds
and, higher still, a vapor trail to the heavens.


Originally appeared in The Manhattan Review

Remixing Spaces as Places: A Talk and Reading on March 27

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Mar 162013

The Next American Nature and Science Writing, a Series Curated by Christopher Cokinos and Sponsored by the University of Arizona Institute for the Environment

Civano sketch

The community of Civano in Tucson.
Image courtesy Stefanos Polyzoides.

Simmons B. Buntin
Author, Editor, and Community Provocateur
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 : 7 p.m.

The University of Arizona Poetry Center

I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday, March 27th for a talk and reading at the UA Poetry Center. I’ll be the second participant in the Next American Nature and Science Writing Series, and here’s what I’ll be doing:

Remixing Spaces as Places

Mixing prose and poetry, images and imagery, Simmons B. Buntin will present an artistic vision of landscape — natural and built — that defines livable places more broadly than just human communities. He will begin with a discussion and slideshow of vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods detailed in his new book, Unsprawl. He’ll recite poetry from the sub-urban fringe from his books Bloom and Riverfall. And he’ll conclude by reading a Sonoran desert essay that explores the public and personal risks of remixing spaces as places.

Specifically, I’ll provide a visual and oral overview of the twelve case studies of the Unsprawl book, which publishes this month, honing in on the community of Civano, located in southeast Tucson, where I’ve lived for thirteen years now. Civano was one of the nation’s first planned developments to integrate principles of sustainability (and a quantifiable methodology for measuring sustainability) with New Urbanism.

UnsprawlI’ll then read a few poems that speak to people and wildlife in place — specifically this place, the Sonoran desert.

And I’ll finish with an essay titled “The Sum of All Species,” which won the Mid-American Review’s nonfiction contest, selected by W. Scott Olsen. The essay braids the development of the community of Civano with two wildlife incidents: the capture of a whiptail lizard by my older daughter, and the rattlesnake bite of my younger daughter’s friend. It explores the question of how we define community, and what risks we’re willing to take to create a sense of place.

Copies of Unsprawl, Bloom, and Riverfall will be available for purchase and signing, and stickers will also be available for sale as a fundraiser for A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments, the journal I founded in 1997 and continue to edit, thanks to the fine work of our international editorial board and sharp genre editors.

A bit more about the talk and reading can be found at I hope you’ll join me for this free event!

A List, a Class, and a Tribute

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Feb 112013


It appears I’ve been remiss in posting to my own blog. In fact, the last post before today occurred about 16 months and one week ago. Yikes. Your forgiveness, I beg.

Here are three things I wanted to point you, my faithful two or three readers, to:

A List

The University of Arizona Poetry Center asked me to put together a list of ten recommended books for young adults for its wonderful WordPlay blog.

Take a gander:

You might think that, as a father of two teenagers, I’d have a good handle on the books that have influenced these vibrant young women, and I could simply list those. They are both voracious readers, after all, and my wife and I read aloud to them nightly for years. But making any kind of assumptions about teenagers can be tricky, alas, and so (with one or two exceptions) the books I list over on WordPlay are instead the ones that most influenced me as a young adult, predominantly in high school and college. They include work by Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, Mary Oliver, J. K. Rowling, and more. Check it out!

A Class

Hey, speaking of the Poetry Center, I’m teaching a six-week class there this spring, beginning February 18, titled Poetry in Bloom: Reading and Writing Poems of Flowers, Gardens, and Landscapes.

Here’s the class description:

Flowers, gardens, and floral landscapes have long been a source of poetic inspiration. “O, my Luve’s like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June,” wrote Robert Burns in 1794. Two hundred years earlier, Sir Edmund Spenser gave us the inspiration for “roses are red, violets are blue.” Today, plants and gardens provide rich metaphor, image, and form for poetry. In this class we’ll explore the lush and literary pathways of the poetic and floral. We’ll dedicate half of our time to reading and discussing poems of and about plants, drawing on the long history of flowers and gardens and leafy landscapes in poetry as well as contemporary work, and we’ll spend the rest of our time on poetry-writing exercises and workshopping of student poems. One class will be held in the field on a botanical trip. This class is open to all skill levels of poets, gardeners, and those who simply want to stop to smell (and write about) the roses.

I spent much of this weekend putting together the custom, 100-page anthology of poems we’ll use (well, we’ll only explore a dozen or so, the rest are for the enjoyment of class participants at their leisure). I must say, I’m really excited about this class, and about getting back to writing some of my own poetry, too.

Won’t you join us? Learn more and register here. The course is held at the beautiful Poetry Center, and tuition is $170 + $5 course fee.

A Tribute

This last note comes with much sadness: On December 16, poet and friend Jake Adam York died from a massive stroke. I’ve written a tribute (plus included some links to Jake’s work appearing in that begins on the blog and appears in full on Essay Daily: “Aftertude, or The Five Stages of Loss: Remembering Jake Adam York.”

Check out the first link for the intro and other links, and the second link for the full tribute:

The tribute begins:

1. Isolation

Because there is blood streaming from his side, a man is screaming. This is not a metaphor. Because the wound has split the taught muscle beneath his arm, he is flailing like a snared fish, the panorama of his tattoos turned to bright scales among the dark spray. Because I am not the angler, I am a bystander. Because I am only a bystander, I do not dial 9-1-1 when the man stumbles into the coffee shop on Colfax and Lipan, though others do. Because I am killing time at a coffee shop on Wednesday morning waiting for the memorial service of Jake Adam York, I am a witness. Though I am one of many witnesses, I am in this alone.

2. Anger

I have been reading Jake’s essay “Recovery: Learning the Music of History” because recovery is the right word for how we attempt to go about our lives after someone we care about suddenly dies, as my friend Jake Adam York did on December 16, following a massive stroke. Because in that long essay I can return in some small sense to the man I’ve known and admired for twenty-two years, and because even if we can’t truly recover, his words become a living text. Because they offer renewal.

Read the full tribute.

I should have some other interesting news to share over the next few weeks and months. Much of my news relates to, so be sure to check out the journal (in its new design!) and follow the blog.

Prospecting, by A. R. Ammons

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Feb 112013

A. R. Ammons


Coming to cottonwoods, an
orange rockshelf,
and in the gully
an edging of stream willows,

I made camp
and turned by mule loose
to graze in the dark
evening of the mountain.

Drowzed over the coals
and my loneliness
like an inner image went
out and shook
hands with the willows,

and running up the black scarp
tugged the heavy moon
up and over into light,

and on a hill-thorn of sage
called with the coyotes
and told ghost stories to
a night circle of lizards.
Tipping on its handle
the Dipper unobtrusively
poured out the night.

At dawn returning, wet
to the hips with meetings,
my loneliness woke me up
and we merged refreshed into
the breaking of camp and day.


from Selected Poems Expanded Edition, by A. R. Ammons

Some Poetry for Boulder

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Sep 252011

The Flatirons near BoulderAlas, I have been neglecting this, my blog. But I wanted to post my reading list for Monday evening’s poetry reading at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe in Boulder. Get yer details here.

I hope you’ll join me to hear the following:

Don’t be shy: come on over to Boulder!

Help Create One Book Exploring 12 Livable Communities

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Aug 082011
Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois

Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois -- northwest of Chicago -- is a transit-oriented, mixed-use community that was developed in concert with an organic farm, learning farm, stables, and more. It is one of 12 projects of the UnSprawl case study book.

Over on my One-Car Town blog, a reader noted that while I asked what “UnSprawl” means, I never actually defined it. Fortunately, defining the term — which I coined when founding A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments nearly 15 years ago — isn’t too tricky. And yet “UnSprawl” can mean many different things to many different people, for what is one person’s sprawl might be another person’s utopia.

As a category, however, UnSprawl is the section of that, in each issue, contains an in-depth narrative and design-oriented review of a development that is environmentally, economically, and culturally more viable than conventional suburban (which is to say, car-oriented) development. So it really means communities (usually fairly new projects, but not always) that are un-sprawled in their design and implementation. With 27 issues published so far, we’ve explored more than two dozen innovative developments across North America.

Earlier this year I was approached by the folks at Planetizen Press to assemble a new book of 12 of these updated case studies — actually, 11 current and one new study. It’s a wonderful opportunity to continue to highlight these good projects, as well as to promote

So even though the contract doesn’t cover the expenses necessary to visit and rephotograph all of the projects, as well as interview some of the bright minds behind them, I jumped at it. And in researching opportunities for reimbursing my travel expenses, I realized that using a fundraising site like might just do the trick. Why? First, it brings together a wealth of creative projects, including journalism projects such as the UnSprawl case study book, so that people who might not otherwise learn of a project now can find out more, and support it, on a secure platform that they know and trust. Second, it ensures that those who pledge to the project receive something in return, in our case ranging from a sticker to a copy of the book once published to a personal onsite tour of one of the developments. Third, it ensures that only those projects that meet their funding goals move forward — so there’s no risk that the project won’t be completed if not fully funded.

The UnSprawl case study book funding goal is $2,500, and it must be met by September 5th for the funding to be released. The book itself is due November 1st, and I’ve already been traveling a lot this summer — to Oregon, California, and Illinois. Trips to Tennessee, Georgia, Colorado, and Texas are on the horizon.

With ten case studies written by me and two by Ken Pirie, the UnSprawl case study book will be unique in its full-color project overviews, interviews, informative sidebars, resources, and exclusive online content. You can help support this important book — and learn about on-the-ground efforts to build community while counteracting global warming and other threats to our built and natural environments — by contributing to the project.

If building resource-efficient, pedestrian-oriented communities that create authentic sense of place is important to you, please consider helping us out.

Learn more and pledge online before September 5th at

Thanks very much for your consideration.

Readings in Washington and California

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Jun 262011

Suisun City WaterfrontI’d love to see you at one of the following events coming up in late June and early July as we trek up to the Pacific Northwest:

June 29, 2011 : 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Poetry Reading with Derek Sheffield
Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

July 6, 2011 : 8 p.m.
Poetry Reading with Dorine Jennette, Davis Poetry Night Reading Series
Bistro 33, Davis, California

I’ll also be visiting RiverPlace in Portland, Oregon, and the Suisun City Waterfront in Suisun City, California, as part of a project to update a series of UnSprawl case studies. Look for an official announcement on that in mid-July.

May 032011

Last month, the Tucson Clay Co-op supplied bowls for poets and poetry lovers to inscribe poems onto before glazing. My younger daughter Juliet and I participated, and then read the poems from our bowls along with a couple other dozen folks, with Tucson poet laureate Ofelia Zepeda, at Bentley’s House of Coffee & Tea in Tucson last night. It was a wonderful gathering and lovely way to combine two different forms of art.

Here’s Juliet’s bowl and poem:

Juliet's bowl and poem

Juliet's bowl

Juliet’s poem is:


Some dads
get mad and
sad. But you’re
always glad.
I love you for who
you are and I love your
orange Subaru car.
I love you dad.
You’re the best dad
a girl could ever have.

:: gush :: What dad could ask for more than that? And here’s my bowl:

Simmons's bowl

Simmons's bowl and poem

Simmons's bowl and poem

My poem reads:

On Considering the Universe, Sweet Acacias
Blooming between Sidewalk and Street

Trunks glow blue
among yellow flowers:
whole constellations of them
in the dark branches
of the night.

This was the fourth annual poetry and pottery event but our first. We look forward to participating next year and thereafter!