Friday, June 26, 2009

New Interactive Book Features Personal Essays About Global Warming

New Anthology Offers Personal Stories and Reflections on Global Warming from New and Established Writers and Photographers

Unique collaboration between nonprofit and publisher will make interactive book accessible to millions of Americans for free.

NEW YORK - A new generation of writers and photographers with a personal connection to global warming are taking inspiration from Henry David Thoreau and other legendary environmental authors by publishing their works in a special anthology from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Penguin Classics.

The nonprofit science group and Penguin Classics selected essays and photos by 67 Americans for the new book Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming. The contributors include scientists, students, grandparents, activists, veterans, journalists, evangelical Christians, artists, and businesspeople who live in 32 states stretching from Alaska to Florida. A foreword on global warming by award-winning novelist, poet and nonfiction author Barbara Kingsolver helps to set the context.

UCS and Penguin Classics will offer the anthology for free online as an interactive book at and a forthcoming eBook. A limited edition hardcover also will be available for purchase. The online interactive book will allow the anthology to be instantly shared with friends through emails and on social media sites.

"This partnership was unique in so many ways, but no more so in the reversal of roles we each played," said Kevin Knobloch, UCS's president. "Penguin Classics spearheaded efforts to inform the public about the need to speak out about global warming, while we took the editorial and publishing lead."

"I have great respect for the work of the Union of Concerned Scientists," said Elda Rotor, editorial director at Penguin Classics, "and it's been very satisfying for us to have been able to help generate public participation in this project, and we hope their voices will be heard; particularly as Congress debates legislation to reduce the pollution that contributes to global warming."

Personal Perspectives from Across the Nation

As Ms. Kingsolver writes in her foreword, to find hope in our future "we must radically reconsider the power relationship between humans and our habitat." The contributors to Thoreau's Legacy do just that. We see the changes in New England's natural beauty through the eyes of an observant ninth-grader. We learn how pollution and a warming climate are affecting the Yakama Indians' way of life. We follow a family whose faith has led them on a journey to protect the planet. We look into the fearsome eyes of an old polar bear crossing the Alaskan ice. And we get a useful, if painful, lesson from a New Orleans native who can never go home again and who worries for other American cities. These are just a few of the many personal accounts about climate change in this collection.

The Genesis of this Anthology

UCS and Penguin Classics teamed up in September 2008 to encourage writers and photographers to submit their personal impressions of global warming -- in words or images -- for publication in a new book.

Hundreds of bookstores across the country joined the effort by displaying easels and distributing free bookmarks about the project. Both Penguin Classics and UCS featured the project prominently on their Web sites.

The partners received nearly 1,000 submissions from established and aspiring writers and photographers from across the country. They submitted 200- to 500-word personal accounts or photographs that focused on the places they love and want to protect; the animals, plants, people and activities they fear are at risk from a changing climate; and the steps they are taking in their own lives to stem the tide of global warming.

A team of reviewers from Penguin Classics and UCS selected 67 contributions for the anthology. Working with Mixit Productions, they produced an innovative interactive book. In July a limited edition hardcover coffee table book and a downloadable eBook will also be available.


The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

Penguin Classics is the largest and most comprehensive publisher of classic literature in English in the world, and as a publisher is committed to using paper products from manufacturers that are committed to sustainable paper production techniques, and to in-house conservation and recycling in our daily business practice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Received: Hawk & Handsaw recently received:

Unity College, Maine
Editor, Kathryn Miles

Hawk & Handsaw is a handsome new, full-color journal published once a year that offers "works of art from established and emerging writers dedicated to a specific facet of environmental sustainability. The plurality of voices within each issue reveals the range of perspectives and practices as well as the richness that a sustainable life affords." Work includes nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and art.
From the editor:
"Like Shakespeare's Hamlet, the contributors to Hawk & Handsaw know which way the wind blows. They know that a sustainable lifestyle can be messy and meaningful, that it requires reflection, deep philosophical commitment and, more often than not, a good sense of humor. To this end, Hawk & Handsaw celebrates the thinking and reflection that ground sustainable practices and practitioners."
The new issue, the journal's second, is beautiful both in scope and production, and includes work by Scott Russell Sanders, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Kathryn Kiripatrick, Carolyln Kraus, editor Simmons B. Buntin, and many others. View the full table of contents here.
How do you get your hands on this issue? Order a copy or subscribe online. You'll be delighted once you receive your copy, as we were when we received ours.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Received: From the Fishouse recently received:

From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, edited by Camille T. Dungy, Matt O'Donnell, and Jeffrey Thomson, with a foreword by Gerald Stern

Persea Books, 2009

From the publisher:

From the Fishouse ( is a one-of-a-kind on-line archive devoted to teh oral and aural aspects of contemporary American poetry. Based in a converted codfish-drying shack in Pittston, Maine, it showcases emerging poets performign their own work and responding to questions about poetry and the writing process.

Derived from the Fishouse Web site, the From the Fishouse print anthology is a jamboree of contemporary poetry at its acoustic best. It collects more than 175 poems by nearly 100 poets from the archive, dividing them into ten playful thematic sections. Each poem is a striking example of why poetry is meant not just to be read, but to be read aloud. To complement the poems, the book includes illuminating excerpts from the Web site's Q&As with the poets and, in the Fishouse tradition of poetry as an oral/aural form, it comes with a compact disc that features dynamic recitations of 38 of the poems in the book. Indespensable for all poetry lovers, From the Fishouse is the most exciting, portable way to experience the array of poetry being written and performed in the United States in teh first decade fo the twenty-first century.


We here at pretty much agree. Both the Fishouse website and book are really grand. Check them out!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Uncertain Future of Isotope, and Ways to Help Out

As many of you know, we at are trying to help preserve Utah State University's important literary journal Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing, which faces elimination by the university.

With his permission, I'm posting editor Christopher Cokinos's recent letter to Isotope contributors and subscribers:

Letter From the Editor:

Dear Isotope Reader,

We try to spare you from the day-to-day operations at Isotope and just have the magazine show up in your mailbox full of the unique writing and artwork that you love. But we've stayed quiet as long as we can. The state of the economy has caught up with Isotope, and the magazine's future is uncertain--frankly, in peril.

Isotope receives funding from a variety of sources--subscriptions, donations, state and federal grants, Utah State University (USU)--but the bulk comes from the university. Deep budget cuts at USU have resulted in the loss of salary funds for our managing editor as well as the loss of some operating expenses, about an issue's worth. These are critical funds for Isotope's continued publication.

Please know that we are exploring every idea (cockamamie or otherwise) we can think of to keep Isotope alive, but we need your help. Our readers--You--are the reason Isotope exists and has been so successful. With every new or renewed subscription, with every letter or email or submission of your writing or artwork, you tell us that you like what we are doing and you want us to continue. We are deeply grateful for your interest and your support. Now we hope you are willing to do even more.

Here are some ways you can help:

Donations. Any amount helps. Cash donations will contribute to the publication of the next issue and will buy us time to put in place longer-term solutions. They also show the university the extent of reader support. Mail to Isotope, Dept of English, 3200 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-3200.

Words. University administration knows and values Isotope's achievements--but it would be good for USU's decision-makers to hear from our loyal and smart readers. From you. And right away! Please consider dropping a polite note of support to USU Provost Ray Coward and USU President Stan Albrecht, Old Main, USU, Logan, Utah 84322.

Thank you for considering taking some action on behalf of Isotope. Whatever you do, whatever you decide, we hope you will stay engaged in the decisions made in your communities--local to state to national to global--for we're living in a time when citizen engagement can make an even bigger difference than in the recent past. We'll keep you informed about Isotope's future.


Christopher Cokinos, Editor
Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Victoria / Vancouver Island Photo Gallery

The full Victoria and Vancouver Island photo gallery by editor Simmons Buntin -- shots taken before, during, and after the ASLE conference and field trips -- is now online:


Monday, June 08, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 6 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference in Victoria, BC:

Second-growth red cedar on the way to Walbran Valley, a four-hour drive from Victoria.

Though last night's banquet pretty much closed out the ASLE conference, a couple post-conference field trips were held today, including a 12-hour trek, by schoolbus no less, to the Walbran Valley to view Canada's oldest old growth forests.

Our excursion was led by representatives of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, a nonprofit environmental organization working hard to save British Columbia's last remaining old growth forests, as well as to promote sustainable logging. Look for a photo essay from Joan and Rick Maloof on the work of the Wilderness Committee on Vancouver Island in the next issue of

The following photos are from the majestic Walbran Valley, or nearby, and close out my coverage of the ASLE conference. Be sure to check out the full gallery of photos in a few days on my personal website, and thanks for tuning in!

Old growth forest on the Walbran Valley floor.

ASLE members take a hike.

The Emerald Pond, where large steelhead can often be found.

Many of the forty or so ASLE members who made the trip.

Oh, just a 600-year-old tree or so; no big deal, eh?!

Plank trail through the rainforest.

Author self-portrait at a campground originally set up to protest encroaching logging.

Taking a break after hiking to a waterfall (kind of hard to see here in the background).

Columbine before full bloom.

Flower and berries. Lots of wildflowers were blooming there and on the way.

The beards of forest wisdom on the old growth trees.

Our bus, leaving Walbran Valley.

Clearcutting on the road from Walbran.

Pretty good views, when you can get them. Still, I'll take the trees over the clearcut-induced view, thanks.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 5 editor (and traveling dope*) Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

A painted eagle sculpture on the promenade in front of the Empress Hotel, Victoria's Inner Harbour.

* A traveling dope, you ask? Yes, sadly: First, I didn't realize until after I got up to British Columbia that my credit union doesn't allow the use of my debit/VISA card in Canada. I'm a dope not because I didn't know (I mean, really, who calls their credit union before heading up to Canada from the U.S.?) but because I left my Wells Fargo card at home, and it would work just fine up here. Second, I failed to bring a rainshell with me up here. So far I haven't needed one, but I'm participating in the Walbran Valley rainforest day trip/hike tomorrow, and it's likely I will.

So this afternoon, before the ASLE banquet, I caught a bus to the local mall, only to get there fifteen minutes after it closed. (What mall closes at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday, anyway?! Apparently all of them in Victoria.) At that I cut my losses (rather than heading downtown, where for all I know stores may have already closed, as well), and headed back to UVic. Here's hoping it doesn't rain on our trip tomorrow!


Another wonderful day of panels and plenaries to close out the ASLE conference.

I slept in, so missed the first sessions of the day, which also gave me the time to staff the table in the exibitors area for a bit before hitting the "Borderlands" panel, which featured (among others) Tom Leskiw, a contributor (see his essays here and here, the latter an essay on southern Arizona's San Pedro River, relevant for this panel's discussion). Though the panel featured a ranging mix of academic and creative literary work, it was a good mix, and I learned a lot and appreciated the diversity.

I should also praise Tom (and more so his wife Sue, who suggested it) for bringing from their home in northern California a bottle of Eel River Brewing Company's Acai Berry Wheat beer, which I've yet to enjoy, but will before I leave Victoria.

The afternoon plenary was headlined by Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times journalist and author behind the excellent Dot Earth Blog. Turns out that Andrew is a friend and neighbor of editorial board member and columnist David Rothenberg. I purchased Andrew's book The North Pole Was here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World, which he kindly signed for my daughters, as it's a book aimed at middle-school-aged children.

Milkweed Editions publisher and CEO Daniel Slager and Orion Society executive director and Orion magazine editor-in-chief H. Emerson Blake sat with Andrew on a sort of Q&A panel following Andrew's great multimedia presentation. The overall topic of the panel was "New Publishing Environments: The Changing Landscape of Reading," and it spanned what publishing may look like in the realms of books and magazines over the next ten years.

The phrase of the day might be: Change, it's a comin'. But of course change in the publishing industry is already here. For a journal like, the changes bode well, I think. But for traditional print publications, it's hard to say. With Chip Blake at the helm of Orion, though, and knowing the great use they've made of their website and the new Orion digital edition, I'd bet they're poised well. Ditto for Milkweed, which understands the need to get excerpts of their books out into the webosphere (like, for example, in, as well as to feature actual book content on their own website. As for the books themselves? Well, there's Amazon's wireless reading device Kindle, of course, and advanced wireless, portable book readers from other manufacturers are less than a year away, blowing open that market.

So how we read books, magazines, and the like will certainly evolve, and that will undoubtedly save costs as well as resources (think of the elimination of production, printing, and distribution). As I see it, the wireless readers may also force online journals that want to be included in this new digital reading format to create Kindle-friendly versions in addition to our "traditional" websites, as these readers are definitively not web browsers. That's exciting to me; though for a low- or self-funded publication like, could be a real barrier if these readers charge to host our issues, which are already provided for free. The internet may be (relatively) free, but most content on wireless reading devices certainly won't be.

Following logically from the afternoon plenary, "The Virtues of the Virtual: Using Blogs to Communicate Place across Space" roundtable featured a number of bloggers (though really only one who's place-based, and that anonymously so), and was an interesting discussion, though given my blogging experience a bit remedial. Still, only two or three members of the audience, when asked by a panelist, said they were bloggers, and I was one of them, so I suspect the content was right on for the majority of folks in the audience.

Finally, the ASLE banquet and awards presentation featured -- beyond the good food, great company, and typical end-of-conference accolades -- headliner Ruth Ozeki, a Japanese-American filmaker and novelist whose award-winning novels include My Year of Meats and All Over Creation. Her presentation/lecture/discussion/speech (really, what do we call these things: keynote address, I guess) was wonderful, eloquently weaving novel excerpts with a pointed yet not painful environment/food/literature discussion, initiated with a meditation excercise that put me, at least, in a fluid mood set for listening.

:: By the way, I think it's important to note here that I'm listening to U2's "So Cruel," from the album Achtung Baby on my iPod. It's song #1863 of 2432 on my all-play list -- I've been listening to the full library of my iPod's songs in alphabetical order, which I started several weeks (or months) ago. It's a beautiful song on a stellar album from an amazing band. But for the record: The Joshua Tree is U2's best album and, I think, the best rock album ever produced. Discuss among yourselves. Okay, we return now to your regular ASLE blog update.... ::

The banquet in effect concluded the ASLE conference. It was announced that the next conference, in 2011, will be in Bloomington, Indiana at Indiana University, hosted in part by Scott Russell Sanders. Count me in, as this conference (and its location) have been all I'd hope they would be -- and more.

Environmental Note

I have not driven a car or watched a television for the past week. I can't say that very often. Well, maybe I could say that about the TV -- except for The Office, college football, and the occasional DVD, I don't watch much TV anyway. Of course, I've been on the computer a lot, including the continuously rotating slideshow at our exhibitor's table, but even with that my overall computer energy use is down from my standard resource suck. Does that offset the carbon used to transport me up here? Possibly not, but combine it with the proverbial energy and connections I've gained toward my work on and my writing while up here, plus the carbon offset fee I added onto my ASLE registration, and I think it gets me close.

Energy or not, though, you can't walk away from this conference any less concerned about the dire situation of the Earth. As Andrew Revkin says, "By 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life." How we sustain our environment and cultures into the future, when we're not doing such a great job of it right now, is the ultimate question.

Best Event/Activity

Tough call, this. I really enjoyed both the plenary and keynote speaker at the banquet. And sleeping in this morning deserves good marks, as well.

But I'll give the nod to my conversation with Milkweed Editions publisher and CEO Daniel Slager at the banquet, something I wasn't expecting. I've long admired Milkweed's work, so chatting it up with Daniel about Milkweed's future website plans, opportunities for including Milkweed excerpts on, fatherhood, sons vs. daughters, living in Minneapolis compared to New York City, and my own work and writing, capped off the conference in a pretty great way.

Worst Event/Activity

Wasted bus ride to the closed mall, hand's down. Though, really, do I ride the bus in Tucson? No, so here was a rare opportunity. And besides, Victoria has cool double-decker buses. So it wasn't so bad, was it? Nah -- I did get back to the banquet on time, after all.

Beer Note

I drank a couple lovely IPAs at the banquet. But from where? The bottle labels were blue, I think. Anyway, good brew, as they all have been, without exception. Thanks Victoria!

Take Away

The ASLE conference was a success for and for me personally. Couldn't ask for more than that.*

* Well, I could, actually: At one time I had planned to travel up here with my wife and two daughters, but alas, economics and a quickly approaching family reunion in San Diego snuffed those plans out. They would have loved it, though.


Victoria's Inner Harbour, with Prince of Whales whale-watching boats.

Sunset and bay view from Cadboro Gyro Park, just a few blocks south of UVic.

Driftwood (drifttrunk?) at Cadboro Gyro Park.

Victoria's famous Butchart Gardens? Nope, this is one of the courtyard paths to my dorm. Though the UVic campus kind of feels like a suburban office park, it is not without its charms.

ASLE Conference Review : Day 4 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

Heading out from a Victoria inlet for an afternoon of sea kayaking, an official ASLE field trip.

The fourth day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Another great day, which included:

  • First panel: "The Everyday Wild: Nonfiction from the Sky and Ground," featuring Christopher Cokinos reading from his new book, The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars, Jennifer Henderson on Machine in the Sky: A Biography of the Tornado, and John T. Price, on Backyard Nature: Children, Parents, and Insects. With the possible exception of the photography panel way back on the first day, this is the best panel so far. Great readings by all three.
  • Next panel: "Let There Be Night: The Value of Darkness, the Cost of Light Pollution," facilitated by Paul Bogard, editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, and including four writers with essays in the dark night anthology: Gretchen T. Legler, Christina Robertson, Thomas Becknell, and John Tallmadge.
  • Sea kayaking ASLE field trip with two dozen other participants -- Pacifica Paddling's "Oak Bay Coastal Explorer" kayak excursion (see photos below), which was great fun. Pretty good wind and waves. We saw bald eagles and a mother seal with her pup, as well.
  • Evening plenary session: "Green Poetries from Canada: Place, Poetry, and Witness" featuring discussion and readings by Rita Wong and Jan Zwicky. Jan's reading, particularly, just blew me away.
  • Drinks with Orion's Chip Blake, Milkweed Editions's Patrick Thomas, and Hawk & Handsaw's Kathryn Miles (more on that below).

Environmental Note

The global warming may, at least for the rest of this week, be behind us up in Victoria. It's pretty chilly up here this evening, and the day was mild (and downright nippy out on the water when kayaking). Still, people, don't let up your guard on that whole global warming thing. My sources tell me it's the real deal....

Best Event/Activity

This morning, this section was slated for the panel with Cokinos, Henderson, and Price. Then, following the kayaking excursion, it was reserved for that little adventure. I'm settling at this late hour, however, on my evening conversation with Chip, Kathryn, and Patrick. It's not often I get to talk shop -- not to mention share hilarious family stories -- with good folks like these. Our small gathering over local brews at the UVic Student Union pub/grill was a delight and a privelage.

Worst Event/Activity

I have very sad news to share -- news I learned yesterday but wasn't prepared to share until today (and I do have permission). As many of you know, Christopher Cokinos founded and has served as the editor of the outstanding journal Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing for more than a decade now. Many of you also know that state university funding has been drastically cut nearly everywhere. Combine those two, and we learn that Utah State University will no longer be publishing Isotope.

Folks, Isotope is one of the three or four best environmental literary journals, and its closure is a huge blow not only to the good folks working on the journal at USU, but to environmental and science literature readers and writers everywhere. But what to do? We need to find a large endowment to sustain the journal, under Chris's excellent editorial skills, and find it now. So ante up!

There is a possibility that Isotope will move to another university or other editing team, but unless it stays at USU, as far as I know Chris will no longer be the editor. That is sad, indeed.

Beer Note

Enjoyed a couple local brews at the pub tonight, but didn't get their names. You pretty much can't go wrong with any of the the local stuff, I realize, so brand/name may not be an issue.

Take Away

  • Creative nonfiction panels = good
  • Ocean kayak excursions = good
  • Late-night conversations with editing peers = good
  • Shutting down environmental lit mags = bad


I'm including only kayak photos in this entry. Here are the kayaks on the dark, pebbly beach before we loaded into them and pushed out.

I took along my new Canon PowerShot D10, which is waterproof to 33 feet, though that doesn't necessarily mean the lens won't get smudged with drops of saltwater from my sporadic paddling (or otherwise)....

Greg and Kathryn Miles threaten to capsize our kayak (no, not really; we all did a little bump-and-float along the way).

We saw three bald eagles, though I couldn't get a good shot of any of them. Here's one, but this could be a nautical turkey for all this picture reveals.

My paddling partner: Charlie.

And me.

All in all, a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 3 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

Darth Vader plays a mean fiddle in downtown Victoria, and it wasn't all Star Wars theme, either.

The third day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Well before the ASLE conference started, coordinators Dan Philippon (ASLE president and program chair) and Richard Pickard (local arrangements chair) noted that there would be more time for network-building and socializing before, between, and after the sessions of this year's conference. We haven't been disappointed. While today's sessions were strong once again, I enjoyed the discussions and gatherings outside of the panels more so.

This morning I attended the paper jam titled "Poetic Forms, Poetic Places: Readings and Reflections," featuring Ian Marshall on haiku and the International Appalachian Trail, Cara Chamberlain on the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, Emily Carr on the poem as ecotone, Mary Pinard on the sonnet redouble as an "archipelago of song," a phrase nearly as beautiful as her sonnets, and contributor Andrew C. Gottlieb reading his Isle Royale National Park poems, two of which appear in our current issue (with audio). Poetry is always a great way to start out the morning, and this panel did not disappoint.

I then skipped the ecocriticism mid-morning plenary session (I mean, aren't we all critical enough of our environment, anyway?! okay, sorry...) and worked the table through lunch, catching up with a few contributors like Andrew Wingfield and Joan Maloof and meeting lots of other great folks.

The first afternoon session was difficult to choose, as the roundtable "Earth's Body: An Ecopoetry Anthology" featuring Ann Fisher-Wirth, Laura-Gray Street, and others, and the "Poems on Place" reading featuring Suzanne Roberts and other poets were both very tempting. But I felt especially drawn to the paper jam "Creative Nonfiction: Transformations," facilitated by Hawk & Handsaw: The Journal of Creative Sustainability editor and Unity College environmental literature associate professor Kathryn Miles. Hawk & Handsaw deserves mention here not just because of its cool (sub+)title and the (full disclosure here) fact that I have an essay in its just-released second issue, but because this beautiful journal is going to raise the bar for creative environmental journals. I'll have it down at the table if you want to check out the copy -- just don't take it from me, please! (You may take the Hawk & Handsaw postcard, instead.)

The panel featured Jennifer Calkins on quails, Robert Scott Elliott on flyfishing the Sol Duc, Catherine Meeks on the Tennessee Valley Authority, Mary Webb on the urban heat island that Reno has become, Elizabeth Van Zandt on Mojave's sky islands, and Russ J. Van Paepeghem, editor of Camas: The Nature of the West (another really good environmental journal) on the topography of silence. A lovely mixture!

The afternoon closed out with a packed, and delightful, author's reception, where I picked up books by Kathryn Miles (Adventures with Ari: A Puppy, a Leash, and Our Year Outdoors) and Suzanne Roberts (Nothing to You: Poems), as well as the brand-new From the Fishhouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, edited by Camille T. Dungy (thanks Camille!). I also met contributor Anca Vlasopolos, whose work I much admire.

Name dropping here? Yeah, sort of, but understand that I know a lot of folks digitally through the journal (and/or Facebook, blogging, etc.), so finally meeting them in person is a big deal to me -- worth mentioning, certainly! And the spaces in between the sessions and author's reception today, especially, resounded with these wonderful connections.

This evening, editorial board member and columnist Lauret Savoy and I traveled to downtown Victoria for a really excellent dinner at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub & Guesthouses (more on that below) and stroll around the Inner Harbor (where we saw Lord Vader on violin, pictured above). I finished the evening catching up with folks at the Orion/Milkweed Editions reception, though once again I arrived too late for free beer, dangit!

Environmental Note

Anyone else notice that water from a stainless steel bottle tastes like, well... steel? Color me picky, but I like my water to taste pretty much like nothing.

Best Event/Activity

I've already mentioned the great connecting with folks -- via the table, author's reception, pre- and post-panel, and otherwise -- so won't hit that again. And I'll discuss Spinnakers a bit below.

So let's select my outing with Lauret Savoy, who kindly drove us to downtown and back. I first met Lauret in person back in NYC for the AWP conference, January 2008. She was a participant on "The Future of Environmental Essay" panel I chaired. I learned about her and her work through Alison Deming. To say I was blown away by Lauret's presentation on the panel is an understatement. It was a great panel across the board -- really great (read and hear excerpts of the panel that also included Alison, David Gessner, and David Rothenberg here) -- and Lauret capped it off beautifully. Since then, she has joined our editorial board and is now writing a regular column, A Stone's Throw, for each issue. Check out her first contribution on placing Washington, D.C., before the inauguration.

It was splendid to really have the opportunity to talk with Lauret this evening, the conversation ranging easily from family to geology to publishing and well beyond.

Worst Event/Activity

I'd still like a bigger crowd in the exhibitors area. Things definitely picked up just before the author's reception, but we should have attendees strolling through in greater numbers all the time. I've heard from a few folks that they didn't even know there is an exhibitors area.

Put the coffee out earlier and keep it filled up, maybe?

Beer Note

Before heading up to Victoria I Googled "Victoria brewpubs" and three came up: Canoe (see Day 0), Swanns (which I've yet to visit), and Spinnakers, which Lauret and I easily found across the Johnson Street Bridge this evening. What a great restaurant and brewpub this is! We got a table on the shady patio looking out toward the Inner Harbour, I opted for the delicious halibut fish and chips, and the beer was oustanding. I had the Nut Brown Ale: smooth and a bit smoky, in a good way. A gorgeous color and head, too.

Folks, they know how to brew some beer up in Victoria!

Take Away

1. I cannot stay up this late blogging.

2. I should instead stay up this late chatting with my many new ASLE friends.


The view from our table at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub.

Simmons Buntin and Lauret Savoy in front of the Empress Hotel.

The Pacific Grace, docked near the Inner Harbour esplanade.

Lauret photographs the harbour and the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.

Parting shot: silhoutted rigging. I don't know what all this stuff is, but I do know that it is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 2 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

The British Columbia Government Parliament Buildings near the Victoria Inner Harbour.

The second day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Today the ASLE conference kicked off in full, beginning with the opening plenary, featuring conservation biologist, professor, and writer Richard Primack, and ecologist and writer Amy Seidl, author of the new, acclaimed book Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World.

I next attended "Essays from the Wildbranch Writing Workshop," facilitated by Anne Arundel Community College English professor Susan Cohen, and featuring creative nonfiction readings from Susan, Sierra College instructor Eve Quesnel, and not-an-English-professor me. I read my essay "Songbird," which I first drafted as part of the Wildbranch Writing Workshop in northern Vermont last summer.

I spent lunch manning the table in the (warm/stuffy/underlit/moderately sparse) exhibitors area. I should note that the onion rings from the UVic Student Union grill around the corner and down the hall are particularly tasty.

After lunch I attended the session titled "Conservation Photography as a Form of Literary Expression," which was just grand (more on that below), though I was sorry to miss "How and Why to Write about Humans and Nature," featuring contributors Anca Vlasopolos and Joan Maloof, as well as "Bubbas and Babes in the Woods: Real Men Read Creative Nonfiction about Children and Nature," which is closest to my own writing. Too bad so many great sessions occured at the same time, but such is the risk when there are fifteen concurrent sessions!

The final session of the day for me was what the ASLE coordinators call a "paper jam," which simply means fitting more presenters/readers into a single session. "Online, On the Page, and Out of This World: A Reading of Emerging Multicultural Ecopoetries" was led by Camille T. Dungy, and featured delightful short readings by her as well as Shane Book, Sean Hill, and James Hoch. Much to my chagrin, Oliver de la Paz, who was listed, wasn't able to make the session.

All in all, a great slate of sessions, which is just what I hoped for!

Then I joined Susan Cohen and her husband, plus Eve, University of Nevada - Reno English lecturer Mary Webb, and current issue contributors Andrew Gottlieb and Suzanne Roberts for a lovely dinner at Sauce Restaurant & Lounge, patio dessert along the water, and a walkabout along Victoria's Inner Harbour that included a street performer juggling flaming torches on a raised unicycle (not to mention a cool bus ride back to campus in a double-decker city bus) this evening.

Environmental Note

I've rinsed out my new Earth Basics 900 ML stainless steel bottle and am ready to roll with it. No more plastic bottles, I say!

On a more relevant note, I enjoyed the opening plenary, especially Richard Primack's conversational style and slideshow about tracking global warming at Thoreau's Walden Pond using historical data from Thoreau himself, as well as Primack's and his students' research. As an opening plenary, however, I would have liked Primack to expand his global warming discussion a bit to the role of environmental literature in general. Something to really launch us into the conference. Or maybe that should have been Seidl's role? Either way, neither really got me jazzed up or ready to actively think more critically about it, which seems to me the role, in part, of the opening plenary.

Speaking of global warming, I do believe that Victoria is experiencing the phenomena this week. While it's not too bad outside -- not too bad? Why, it's downright beautiful! -- inside the Student Union and classrooms the temperature is uncomfortably warm. Simmons should have brought himself more pairs of shorts, is all I'm saying!

Best Event/Activity

The photography session early this afternoon was stunning visually -- slideshows and films -- and just as important thought-provoking and essential, especially for me in the context of, which attempts to bring together the web's best environmental literature and photography (as well as other media). Professional photographers Garth Lenz, Cristina Mittermeier, and Amy Gulick -- all members of the International League of Conservation Photographers -- introduced the ILCP and its work, and then addressed specific projects each photographer is working on to "bring conservation into focus." Do yourself a favor and check out the ILCP website, and then keep an eye out in future issues of, where I'm certain we'll be covering the organization's good work and photographers.

Worst Event/Activity

Other than the persistently stuffy session rooms -- which I've already harped on more than enough (and I'll stop now) -- there was nothing to complain about today. Sure, we missed the evening plenary and the opening free bar at the international reception, but that was our own doing as we enjoyed our stroll in downtown Victoria so much.

Beer Note

At Sauce this evening, I enjoyed a Vancouver Island Brewery Vancouver Islander Lager, crafted here in Victoria. I thought it was smooth and refreshing, complementing my delicious caramel pepper salmon quite nicely. Andrew, on the other hand, thought it was bland. The light lager could have used a bit more robustness (both in color and taste), I agree. For that I think we'd need Vancouver Island Brewery's Hermann's Dark Lager, which the restaurant did not, alas, have on tap.

By the way, as I type this I'm enjoying the jazz/electronica tunes streaming from Sauce's website. Check it out.

Take Away

At the Wildbranch panel this morning, one audience member -- a two-time Wildbranch participant -- noted how great it was to attend Wildbranch and write/commune with like-minded souls. That's pretty much how I feel following the first full day of the ASLE conference. While I'm not of the academic ecocriticism ilk (most attendees are), the passion, concern, and dedication toward the environment in lifestyle and writing serve as an essential bond and support system. I appreciate being a part of that.

I appreciate, too, the ability to form closer relationships with folks like Andrew and Suzanne, who I knew (mostly) only through before this conference began.


A large totem pole in front of the British Columbia Government's Parliament Buildings, which we strolled by this evening.

A wonderful plaza near the Inner Harbour.

In my first blog entry I included photos of the painted eagle sculptures. Here are a couple whale samples.

Whale sculpture, tiled, with the Empress Hotel in the background.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 1 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

The Empress Hotel at Victoria's Inner Harbour. I didn't make it back there today, but hopefully tomorrow! This photograph is from yesterday (Monday, for those keeping track of such things).

The first (half) day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:
Today I had the morning off to figure out this internet connection stuff, as well as to check in at registration and set up the table in the exhibit hall. This afternoon I participated in the Ecomedia pre-conference session, for which I prepared (but we did not at all discuss, nor even mention, much to my chagrin, my "Virtual Sense of Place" hypertext essay).
After the three-hour session I had the (easy) opportunity to photograph the sprawling herds / flocks / pods / kettles of rabbits here on campus (see below), which is when I ran into my friend and editorial board member Lauret Savoy, who no doubt thinks I'm crazy. Crazy like a rabbit, I say!
The ISLE Reception, sponsored by Oxford University Press which now publishes ASLE's fine journal Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, gave me the opportunity to mingle with conference participants, including a couple contributors and Susan Cohen, who organized the Wildbranch Essays panel for which she, Eve Quesnel, and I read tomorrow (10:30 a.m., Session B14, Clearihue C115).
I finished the evening by walking down Sinclair Road to Cadboro Gyro Park (a couple photos below), which has a beach loaded with driftwood off a small inlet adjacent to the Strait of Georgia. The walk back up the long, steep hill was definitely good exercise.
Environmental Note
The problem, folks, is that I need caffeine, but I don't drink coffee. Sure, I'll drink tea -- had some this morning and again at a stop at Starbuck's on the way back from the park this evening -- but there's something about a cold Coke Zero that gets me going. Sad thing is, all the soda up here seems to come only in plastic bottles. So I've added another to my collection. Perhaps I'll line them up outside before I leave and photograph them with the rabbits?
Best Event/Activity
A toss-up between the park, with the glowing boats on the water, and tracking down the feral European rabbits. Not sure what it is with me and these critters, but I find them fascinating. Learn more here, and here, too. Those are the official UVic sites. Now check out this article about the bunnies moving off-campus and the dreaded Rodentator. Or you could just kill and cook them, a certain kind of sustainability, I suppose. Guess that means that rabbits aren't entitled to graduate and move off-campus like the rest of us...?
Worst Event/Activity
I see now this section could get me in trouble, so I may change it to something a bit more politically correct. Suggestions?
While I enjoyed reading the papers of the Ecomedia pre-conference seminar, and there was interesting discussion, I admit it wasn't relevant to my needs as an editor, publisher, writer, or environmentalist on more than a peripheral level. That's primarily because of the nature of the discussion, which focused not on technology or even content, as I hoped, but on research and teaching methodologies for ecocriticism and ecomedia. That's fine: of the dozen or so of us in the session, only two people (me one of them) isn't a full-time professor. I had this concern -- about being a right fit for the session -- before I put together the hypertext essay.
One notable exception that warranted much discussion and interest is Claudia Hemphill Pine's research on ecological thinking in the transformative culture of fandom. Apparently, online communities of fans -- think of the Harry Potter fandom -- tend to rally around social causes, with the notable exception of environmental issues. Claudia explores why, and why not.
Beer Note
I had a localish Canadian ale at the ISLE Reception, but I didn't get the name, gosh darnit. Not bad, but not as tasty as Canoe's Beaver Brown.
Take Away
My take away today is: I'm rolling my sleeves up for the full conference kickoff and sessions tomorrow. I'll be dancing back and forth between the table and sessions, including my reading in the morning. There are fifteen concurrent sessions in each time slot, and while there are 670 registered participants, I wonder just how many audience members each panel can expect. I'll let you know tomorrow evening!

First, you see one of these cute, pet-looking bunnies.

Then you see a few more lounging around in the full spectrum of pet bunny colors and sizes.

Being European rabbits, I can't help but think of Watership Down, which I recall so well from my fourth-grade teacher's reading of the classic book. Here, as there, they're territorial and heirarchical -- and dig broad networks of warrens.

Then you begin to realize the damn things are everywhere....

Everywhere, I say, and they're coming after me!

The rabbits are not, however, down at the beach at Cadboro Gyro Park, where this photo was taken as the sun set behind the hills behind me.

A few boats (ships seems too big a word here, but then I'm no sailor) in the inlet, with the Strait of Georgia behind and the Olympic Mountains (and Washington State) in the far distance.