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 Terrain.org stickers will also be available for sale as a fundraiser for Terrain.org: 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 http://www.environment.arizona.edu/events/2293. I hope you’ll join me for this free event!

Feb 112013
 

flower

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:

http://poetry.arizona.edu/blog/simmons-buntin-recommends

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 Terrain.org) that begins on the Terrain.org 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:

http://blog.terrain.org/2013/02/04/aftertude-or-the-five-stages-of-loss/

http://essaydaily.blogspot.com/2013/02/aftertude-or-five-stages-of-loss.html

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 Terrain.org, so be sure to check out the journal (in its new design!) and follow the blog.

Feb 112013
 

A. R. Ammons

Prospecting

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

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!

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 Terrain.org: 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 Terrain.org 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 Terrain.org.

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 Kickstarter.com 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 Terrain.org 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 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/635178095/unsprawl-case-study-book.

Thanks very much for your consideration.

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 Terrain.org UnSprawl case studies. Look for an official announcement on that in mid-July.

Jun 222011
 

While I’ll still post here, especially on writing, photography, and family, I’ve created a new blog: One-Car Town: Logging the one-car lifestyle in new suburbia. Check it out at:

http://onecar.terrain.org

One-Car Town tracks my experience living without a car in suburban Tucson, Arizona. As man of you know, my wife, two daughters, and I live in the community of Civano; I work about 16 miles away, at the University of Arizona, though I also edit Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments. Recently we sold our two cars, dumping their monthly payments in favor of a trusty used Honda Accord. That’s the family ride.

I now carpool and take the bus to work, a big switch after driving solo for the last eleven years. Why the change? That’s what this blog is about: to explore the social, economic, and environmental factors of pursuing simplicity in a one-car-per-family lifestyle. Won’t you come along for the ride?

Take a gander and follow the blog if you so choose:

http://onecar.terrain.org

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:

Dads

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!

Apr 042011
 

We had a wonderful field trip to the Sweetwater Wetlands water treatment facility for our “Birds & Poems” course Saturday morning. Here are a few photos, but check out the full gallery of 39 images — both poets and birds — here.

Northern shoveler
A northern shoveler stretches his wings.

Red-winged blackbird
A red-winged blackbird eyes me as I consider Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” How many ways do they have of looking at — or through — us?

American Coot
An American coot finds a thin branch to bring to its nest-in-progress at the pond’s edge.

Pied-billed grebe
The punk rocker of the Sweetwater crew: a pied-billed grebe, making a rare above-water appearance before diving.

View these and 35 other photos at http://www.simmonsbuntin.com/images/gallery/2011/sweetwater.