I first met Tucso n Poet Tree curator, Clarissa Bueno, in October at the local literary center, Casa Libre, where she was reading as part of Edge, a reading series for younger and emerging writers. I had heard about Tucson Poet Tree from a few friends of mine and decided to check out her reading that night and then attend her next event which occurred a few days later at a local park. I was impressed with both. Clarissa is a wonderful poet who is very passionate about not only her own work but poets and the poetic environment. In particular, the Tucson Poet Tree event was fascinating to me. She put together a collection of emerging and established poets and combined it with art and music, all in a picnic atmosphere. It wasn't perfect, but it was something unique and different. She was definitely on to something.
She may not describe it this way, but with her events she is developing a creative milieu. A place that centers on poetics, yet is also where various art forms can exist and merge into each other. In that way it is less an artistic collaboration as it is a community where art forms can work synergistically to become something bigger than they are on their own.
It's an ambitious concept. I had to learn more and I am grateful that she did an interview with me. I will share with you that interview plus a few poems from Clarissa and poets Hassan Falak and Jody Thompson, who are regular readers at her events. All poems are reprinted with author permission.
The next Tucson Poet Tree event will be held on Jan. 21 at Tahoe Park (Grant/Campbell) in Tucson, Arizona.
Interview with Clarissa Bueno
Bill Wetzel: Tucson Poet Tree is a heterogeneous mix of music, art and poetry. Tell us a little bit about the events and what somebody should expect if they attend one?
Clarissa Bueno: Tucson Poet Tree is community of artists that come together to display their work in natural environment. I strive to curate a variety of mediums including poetry, music and art that is free to the public. All I ask is that the audience brings along their love for art and a blanket as these events are more like picnics.
BW: How did the idea for this poetry series first come about and what made you decide to curate it yourself?
CB: I first got this idea after holding a reading event at Epic Cafe. The turnout was great though the environment was not suiting. I figured the park has always been a wonderful place to be surrounded by the serenity of nature, so why not hold the event outdoors?
BW: The events have a
variety of talented poets, established and otherwise. Can you talk about a few
of them? How do you go about finding readers?
CB: I am grateful that the reading series has such established poets involved such as, Jefferson Carter, Shelly Taylor, and Steven Salmoni. I met these poets through Pima Community College and they have all helped in some way to mentor me into the Tucson poetry community. The strong supporters of TPT are the ones who replied to the initial flyers posted downtown and on Craigslist. Steve Bresler, Hassan Falak, Brian Armstrong, and Jody Thompson have continued to offer their support by attending both readings. One person I have promised to always include is my friend from high school, Eric Jackson, who has taken the time to workshop and introduce me to new music and film. Readers are usually found by word of mouth. That's what's great about Tucson, everyone knows an artist who is willing to collaborate or display their work in some way or another. Most of the poets I meet are friends of the readers from the initial event. What I offer as compensation for the readers is a hand bound chapbook of all the poems scheduled for the reading. Each chapbook is unique in style, color and design with artwork from various obsolete textbooks and encyclopedias.
BW: What are your goals for the reading series? Do you plan to keep it local or would you like to build it into something bigger where you can bring in poets from other places outside of Tucson?
CB: My goal is to always offer a place for poets to have a voice and artists to display their work. TPT is local, but not limited to Tucson. I would like for writers and artists to know there is a place for them here in our community. As far as expanding to other areas, I have considered sprouting a Poet Tree series in San Francisco when I leave AZ to finish up my Bachelor's degree.
BW: What about your own personal journey? What is your personal interest in poetry and how did you get started writing it?
CB: I have been writing since I can remember. I first wrote a poem about snow when my family moved to Catalina, AZ, where my earliest memories began. Words help me find meaning in the world around me. I have lived my life by what I want as a writer. I am inspired by the moments in life that go unnoticed. Obscure phrases in conversation, overcasted desert landscapes, exchanging glances with a stranger; these are the beautiful things in life that capture me. My goal as a writer is to never own my words, but to continue to allow them to flow through me. By working first as a medium for ideas, I am then able to become the creator. I feel like TPT began as a seed, a small idea that is now blossoming into a big beautiful tree right before me.
Bio: Clarissa Bueno is a poet who uses intuition and dreamscapes to paint ideas of the world around her. She is currently finishing up an Associate of Liberal Arts degree at Pima Community College in hopes to transfer to University of San Francisco for a BFA in English. When she's not writing prayer cards for Mia Lena Designs, she can be found tutoring writing students at downtown Pima Community College.
this town is blind. everything is brailed.
my mom grew up here, she says hummingbirds meditate on honeysuckle branches.
her grandpa hypnotized her with the drums of rabbit hearts.
sometimes when I'm half asleep, I am in sweetwater creek building
levees with the soft bones of hummingbirds.
the oldest man is 112. his beard is made of honey.
one time a girl was found dead in the creek. the town made a memorial
twined with sage and chrysanthemums.
there are no sirens. church is a cairn made of clay.
sometimes the town gathers in circles, you can see a white orb from
the stems of their heads. this day is called lion's teeth.
when the sun sets, the mountains fade to cobalt, the sky is wisped white.
there is really no creek, just small streams that lead to
nowhere. if you follow these streams, you fall away.
the teachers in help the children plant apple trees. they make
labyrinths with the fingers of rakes.
the children draw eyeballs in wet dirt.
the economy is sweetwater, lulled from the saps of great sequoia.
I once ran into a man from the streams his eyes were emerald in pale
light. I asked him his name. he said, "I am no one."
the roots are the anchors, without them nothing grows.
the leaders are made by the auras of children.
if I peer into tree rings, I can see the people of sweetwater, raising
long open palmed arms.
I left sweetwater after I was the last to die.
this is where I had my first kiss, the local alchemist called me love curst.
Anna and Oliver
Anna knows she should eat before she
collects her hand bag and squeezes her
swollen, red feet into a pair of polka dot
pumps by the front door. She kept her feet
in the tub water too long, alternating the
right foot with the left, as she shaved those
short , stubby little legs. Anna locks the
front door before making her way down
three flights of stairs and opens the main
gate of her apartment
building out onto the busy side street of her
San Francisco neighborhood. She has been
prowling for months. Tonight, she will
make love. It's in her walk. It's how she
let's her thighs wiggle just a little more as
she glides down the side walk in those polka
dot pumps. It's the nagging feeling of
aluminum foil disintegrating in her stomach
that tricks her into thinking she really should
have eaten, but it's really a feeling of
nostalgia for past lovers that she will try to
recreate with Oliver tonight.
eclectic twist on the new modern :
this breakfast with old family
in vast resort breaking artificial wave ,
among the old boys and girls we knew ,
the brother man, and acres of americans on holiday ,
furniture for giants , and the vast waffle
of a shell oil casita, We are breakfast,we
are tanned caucasians in multitudes.
we are the splendor of our waste. we are
our genuine smile!
heat and slight sadness of age.
he bends , toothless ,
to pluck a hundred desperate blades of grass.
Humboldt County beats in him - the bold days ,
when pot was king and a man could live on love
and goats. this is no longer. Raw oats and the de-railed bicycle
of living, Wrecked sympathies,the last ember of memory and desire:this
scratched photograph of all that mountain man you were / o
how i dreamed of you! when i walked those redwood hills ,
how i longed to be
by your fire
you. elf. jazzboy ,
pluck music in your country vest , with
your strong slight muscle , the direct gaze of you..
And you are paint , are safecracker fingers : trouble
for a double bass. i have loved you on sight , retiring
in my shy shadow .peeking out at your breath.
it is beautiful where you are.
let the raw scraped nerve abide ,
it is only tired saints' procession toward a warped nirvana.
You simmer forth in brushed aluminum
and found copper, in the revelation of neo bluegrass , with children
dancing through a heaven of colored tiles ,
and you have always done so :
always has your little ditty-bop
been a sparkle in my eye
summer kidney pool and sweet beat families
and southwest homegrown boho nesting -
boy and girls in the "hood
for backyard labour day wine and pulled pork savoury ,
glad laugh and a gentle baby splash
afloat small miracles of genius living. Jalapeno lovely
flown back from grey London
to light small fires. Labouring
in Dunbar Spring and reclining in cracked casita -
this is a genius of living...