Birds & Poems at Sweetwater

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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

Mar 132011

For those of you following along, here’s what I’ll be reading when I have the pleasure and honor of joining David Ray at the Tucson Festival of Books on the UA campus (our session is 11:30 a.m., Sunday, Kiva Room, Student Union Memorial Center):

Won’t you join me and David?


Tucson Festival of Books!

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Mar 022011

Only in its third year, the Tucson Festival of Books — held this year on March 12 and 13, at the University of Arizona — is so well run and well-attended you’d think it’s in its thirtieth year!

And this year I have the good fortune of being one of the readers. I’ll be reading poetry from my books Bloom and Riverfall with the wonderful, and wonderfully political poet David Ray.  I think it will be a pretty great mix of desert place & people poetry, and I hope you’ll join us:

March 13, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.
Student Union Kiva Room, University of Arizona

Feb 152011

Wildbranch: An Anthology of Nature, Environmental, and Place-based WritingLocal Authors Read from New Nature Anthology at Tohono Chul Park
February 20, 2011, 2-4 p.m., Tohono Chul Park Education Center Classroom #1

Alison Hawthorne Deming, Gayle Jandrey, Tony Cross, and Simmons B. Buntin—a few of the more than 50 contributors to Wildbranch: An Anthology of Nature, Environmental, and Place-based Writingwill read from the volume at the southern Arizona book launch. Tohono Chul Park, located at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte (near the northwest corner of Ina and Oracle) in Tucson, Arizona, will host these four authors on Sunday, February 20, 2011, from 2-4 p.m. The reading and signing, with books available for purchase, will take place in the Park’s Education Center, Classroom #1. (Education Center Parking Map)

Wildbranch is a powerful collection of essays and poetry—most of which are previously unpublished—by a variety of prominent American environmental writers and exciting new voices. It offers an intimate portrait of the natural world drawn through the wisdom, ecological consciousness, and open hearts of its exceptional contributors.

The Wildbranch Writing Workshop, founded by Annie Proulx and cosponsored by Orion magazine and Sterling College, has encouraged thoughtful natural history, outdoor, and environmental writing for more than twenty years. The anthology includes the works of former Wildbranch faculty Edward Hoagland, Janisse Ray, Scott Russell Sanders, and Alison Hawthorne Deming, as well as many other notable authors.

Alison Hawthorne Deming is professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona. She lives near Agua Caliente Hill in Tucson. She is the author of four books of poetry, Science and Other Poems; The Monarchs: A Poem Sequence; Genius Loci; and Rope. Deming has also published three nonfiction books, Temporary Homelands; The Edges of the Civilized World, which was a finalist for the PEN Center West Award; and Writing the Sacred into the Real. Her poems and essays have appeared in the Georgia Review, Orion, Islands, Pushcart Prize XVIII: Best of the Small Presses, American Nature Writing, Writing it Down for James: Writers on Life and Craft, Verse, Universe: Poems on Science and Mathematics, and the Norton Book of Nature Writing. She taught at Wildbranch in 2007 and 2009.

Gayle Jandrey, writing as G. Davies Jandrey, is a retired educator, poet, and writer of fiction who lives in Tucson, Arizona. She has worked as a fire lookout in Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument. Gayle’s short fiction has appeared in Calyx, Bilingual Review, Portland Review, the Berkeley Fiction Review, and others. Her novel, A Garden of Aloes, was published in 2008. She attended Wildbranch in 1994 and studied with Gale Lawarence.

Tony Cross lives and works in San Francisco and writes as often as possible. He studied writing briefly at Sarah Lawrence College and also studied music at the Oberlin Conservatory. He has attended Wildbranch twice, in 2007 and 2008, and had the privilege of studying with Scott Russell Sanders and Alison Hawthorne Deming.

Simmons B. Buntin lives in the community of Civano in southeast Tucson, Arizona. He is the founding editor of A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments. He has published two books of poetry: Bloom (2010) and Riverfall (2005), both by Ireland’s Salmon Poetry. His poetry and prose have appeared in Isotope, Orion, Kyoto Review, North American Review, High Desert Journal, Weber Studies, Versal, and many others, and he is a recipient of a Colorado Artist’s Fellowship for Poetry. He attended Wildbranch in 2008 and studied with Scott Russell Sanders.

For more information about the event, please visit or contact Jo Falls at (520) 742-6455 x228.

Published October 2010
University of Utah Press
160 pp., paper $17.95
ISBN 978-1-60781-124-4

Praise for Wildbranch

“The overall quality of writing is extremely high. Many of the voices are fresh and engaging, and they add up to a compelling ethical perspective on this beautiful planet and the fellow creatures with whom we humans share it.”
—John Elder, Middlebury College

“One of the richest collections of environmental writing to emerge in years. A special virtue of this new collection is the range of voices offered, and student writers in particular will find the diversity of voices inspiring and empowering.”
—Scott Slovic, University of Nevada, Reno

Join Me at AWP!

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Jan 272011

Jefferson Memorial at duskThe largest conference for writers and publishers is just around the corner, and I hope you’ll join me in Washington, D.C. at one of the following events!

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs
Annual Conference and Bookfair

Washington, D.C. : February 2-5, 2011 / Hawk & Handsaw Booth at Bookfair
Booth 509

I’ll be heading up the shared booth with fellow editors Joshua Foster and Patrick Burns, as well as Hawk & Handsaw editor and editorial board member Kathryn Miles.

Who Makes the Best Student? Growing Your Program with Nontraditional Majors

  • Friday, February 4 : Noon – 1:15 p.m.
  • Coolidge, Marriott Wardman Park
  • I’ll join Patricia Clark, Sean Prentiss, and Joe Wilkins

Environmental Writing in the Age of Global Climate Change, sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment

  • Friday, February 4 : 3 – 4:15 p.m.
  • Virginia C, Marriott Wardman Park
  • I’ll join editorial board member Kathryn Miles, plus Sheryl St. Germain, Paul Bogard, and Janine DeBaise

Salmon Poetry 30th Anniversary Reading and Book Launch

  • Friday, February 4 : 8 – 10 p.m.
  • Pigment Art Studio
    1848 Columbia Road Northwest
    Washington, D.C
  • I’ll read three poems from Bloom with fellow Salmon poets Andrea Cohen, Allan Peterson, Kevin Higgins, Susan Millar DuMars, Alan Jude Moore, Patrick Chapman, Drucilla Wall, Eamonn Wall, Mike Begnal, Patrick Hicks, Stephen Powers, Drew Blanchard, Philip Fried, and John Fitzgerald; hosted by editorial board member and Salmon Poetry publisher Jessie Lendennie

Book Signing
Bloom, by Simmons B. Buntin

  • Friday, February 4 : 10 – 11 a.m.
  • Bookfair, Salmon Poetry Table, E26

I’ll also be attending a number of other social events — including a reception at the Irish Embassy on Thursday evening (how cool is that?!), a couple Orion gatherings, some off-site readings here and there, lunch with an old friend, and a kind of dinner/Super Bowl party with my cousin John Buntin, writer for Governing magazine and author of L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City, plus more of our family members.

And then I’ll be visiting Rockville Town Square, as I plan to feature it as the UnSprawl case study in the next issue of

Whew! That’s a full schedule — but a good one, I hope.

If you’re at AWP, or otherwise in Washington, DC, that week, give me a holler, eh?

Join Me and My New Friends Rita Maria Magdaleno and Pablo Peregrina Wednesday Night

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Jan 192011

Ringtail… for a reading of poetry and more!

Edge Reading Series

Wednesday, January 19, 7:30 p.m.

Casa Libre en La Solana
28 North 4th Avenue
Tucson, AZ

Suggested Donation: $5

Come to Edge: A Reading Series of Emerging and Younger Writers. Edge is a series of local and national writers and cross-genre artists, emphasizing diversity of narrative, identity and literary source. Its purpose is to create community, visibility and voice for emerging and younger writers. Broadsheets of the authors’ work will accompany each reading. Books and journals will be available for purchase and signing by the authors. Refreshments will be available after the reading.

We’ll be reading in this order:

SIMMONS B. BUNTIN is the author of the new book of poems, Bloom, published by Ireland’s Salmon Poetry in 2010, and Riverfall, published by Salmon Poetry in 2005. His award-winning poetry and prose have appeared in numerous North American and European journals and anthologies. He is the founding editor of the acclaimed international journal A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, for which he also writes a regular editorial. He is the recipient of the Colorado Artists Fellowship for Poetry, an Academy of American Poets prize, and grants by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Tucson Pima Arts Council. He is an avid photographer, website designer, and all-around rabble-rouser who lives with his wife and two daughters in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona.

RITA MARIA MAGDALENO grew up in Marcos de Niza, south-side Phoenix, Arizona. She works as a poet in the schools through the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Rita is also a registered nurse. She has presented “Healing Words” at Pima Community College & other writing programs for cancer survivors at the Arizona Cancer Center. Rita’s publications include: Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, & My Mother, (2003) and My New Backyard Garden, a bilingual children’s book (2006). She co-edited They Opened Their Hearts: Tucson’s Elders Tell WWII Stories to Tucson’s Youth (2005). Rita’s poems & stories: Puerto del Sol; Walking the Twilight: Women Writers of the Southwest; Fever Dreams: Contemporary Arizona Poets; and Neueste Chicano Lyrik: New Chicano Poetry.

PABLO PEREGRINA: As a first generation immigrant I am thankful for being born on the borderlands in Nogales, Mexico and growing up bicultural. I officially became a citizen in 1996. Five years ago I performed for Humane Borders 5th Anniversary. At that performance I made a commitment in front of many people to compose a CD around the theme of border issues. This CD is not about Pablo but about all of you that are in this mission together. I’ve been told that I am the voice for those who don’t have a voice. Thank you for those who have inspired me!

Dec 302010

Indigo BuntingBirds and Poems
with Simmons Buntin and Eric Magrane

Mondays, February 28 through April 4, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
except no class meeting on March 14
plus a field trip on Saturday, April 2, 7:00 am to 11:00 a.m.
Tuition: $150  + $10 materials/field trip fee

Both birding and poetry are great practice in patience and close sensory attention. Trying to spot a warbler flitting along leafy branches is a lot like trying to find the right word, shape, or space for a poem. Some poems are like the cactus wren, building a nest among the sharp spines of the cholla; some poems are little balls of energy zipping along like the broad-billed hummingbird; some poems are blown off course during migration and show up where you least expect.

In this class we’ll explore the intersections of the poetic and avian worlds. We’ll dedicate half of our time to reading and discussing poems of and about birds, drawing on the long history of birds 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 birding trip. This class is open to poets and birders of all skill levels.

Simmons B. Buntin is the author of two collections of poems: Bloom (Salmon Poetry, 2010) and Riverfall (Salmon Poetry, 2005). He is also the editor of A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, an award-winning online journal publishing since 1998. His favorite bird is the great blue heron, or an indigo bunting, or the roadrunner, or the rose-breasted grosbeak, or….

Eric Magrane’s poetry has most recently appeared in Tygerburning, Back Room Live, Plume Zine, and EOAGH. He is also the editor of Spiral Orb, an experiment in permaculture poetics. A naturalist and birder, in his day job he is a Senior Hiking Guide and Staff Naturalist for Canyon Ranch.

Learn More and Register Now >>

And here’s one of my bird poems:

Indigo Bunting

This is music, he said,
and his voice climbed
the thin ladder of air

like a cat chases moths,
tumbled like
the river desperate

in flood—his chest filling
with the thick
liquid of song.  This

is music:  not so much
the silver-chorded calls
or the silent intervals

of indigo flash
between yellowgreen limbs,
but the complete cessation:

the wind, the river, the earth’s
core groaning
among its fiery teeth

to hear this simple song.

Learn More and Register Now >>

The Other Good Side of Editing

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Dec 182010

As the editor-in-chief, there’s little that feels better than putting the finishing touches on the issue and getting the work of the publication’s many contributors out into the world. But there’s another good side to editing that has little to do with publishing.

Shura Young with her dog Toby

Shura Young with her dog Toby at the Tar Pits in the 19t0s.

I have to decline far more submissions than I accept (that’s not the good part). Occasionally, however, a submission is close, and if I can find the time I’ll provide critical comments on the essay, poem, or story. That doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, of course. But just the other day I received an email from the writer Shura Young that really made my day. Here it is, with her permission to reprint:

To Simmons Buntin,

In May 2007, you emailed me a page of suggestions in response to an early version of my essay, “Tar Pits.” With that encouragement, I continued two years of revising. “Tar Pits” was published in the 2009 Flyway, A Journal of Writing and Environment, and was selected as Notable in The Best American Essays 2010. Flyway recently interviewed me on their blog [read the interview here].

Although I’ve had nothing else so far that I felt would fit, I wanted to express appreciation for the useful feedback you took the time to give me.

Shura Young


Though I admit some envy that Flyway, a lovely print journal, got the opportunity to consider the revised essay when we didn’t, I am delighted to learn that Shura continued to work on it and that it found a home and recognition even beyond that. As an editor, it is very gratifying to know that I had a small part in the essay’s success.

Nov 062010

Bloom, poems by Simmons B. BuntinIf you’re in or around Tucson and haven’t already received the invite, consider this your invitation!

Please join me, the family, and about 80 other neighbors and friends for the launch of my new book of poems, Bloom (Salmon Poetry).

The launch begins with a BBQ and potluck at 5:30 followed by a poetry reading at 7 p.m. and book sales/signing afterward.

It’s all in the Civano neighborhood center in southeast Tucson, at 10501 E Seven Generations Way (view map).

And except during the reading we will have the Arizona v. Stanford football game on the activity center TV. Go Cats!

Give me a holler with any questions: 520.241.7390.

Oct 182010

Bloom, poems by Simmons B. BuntinMy new collection of poems, Bloom, is now available!  Published by Ireland’s Salmon Poetry — which also published Riverfall and has a superb lineup of poetry collections and anthologies and puts together a beautiful book — the collection contains 36 poems in three sections, including the long, 8-part poem “Inflorescence.”

Tthe poet Alison Hawthorne Deming says of the book:

Simmons B. Buntin writes with scrupulous attention to the agency of love in a wounded and venomous world. Whether he considers Hiroshima or dead albatrosses, the small marvels of finches or ladybugs, or his daughter’s accidental plunge through a plate glass window, his poems celebrate nature, family, and the healing power of beauty.

And here’s the official blurb:

Set largely in the rugged but resplendent borderlands of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico—and ranging as far afield as the Israeli desert, the Sweden of his mother’s youth, the Midway Atoll, and Hiroshima, Japan, on the 40th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb—Simmons B. Buntin’s second collection of poems, Bloom, gathers unexpected insight from our built and natural landscapes to blossom into poems of striking beauty and stunning realization. Shine, the book’s first section, ranges from the violet light of the last night in Eden to a daughter’s coming of age and desire. Flare, the second section, weaves from roadside wildflowers to an evening in SoHo to a mother’s memory of Nazi bombers overhead before her own storied migrations to America. And Inflorescence, the final section, braids the experience of a daughter recovering from emergency surgery following a severe accident, with the slow and mesmerizing bloom—or inflorescence—of the yard’s magnificent agave. In reading the poems of this finely crafted and lyrical book, you’ll find that—like the daughter releasing ladybugs in the poem “Shower”—the open room of your heart, too, will be filled with “pure red joy.”

Purchase your copy now on the Salmon Poetry website! And if you’re in Tucson on Saturday, November 6th, please join me from 5:30 to 9 p.m. in the Civano Neighborhood Center for the Bloom Launch: BBQ, Potluck, Reading, and Signing. Contact me to RSVP — all are welcome!