The Hermit Poet

August 14, 2007

Boxcar Coming to AWP 2008 in NYC

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 12:06 pm

It’s official — I’ve put the order in for a table for Boxcar Poetry Review at AWP in NYC. Come by our table in January and check us out!

Poem forthcoming in Barn Owl Review

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:57 am

In the course of my journey down, I received an email from the folks at Barn Owl Review letting me know that they will be publishing my poem, “Traveling Through the Prairies, I Think of My Father’s Voice.” I’m very excited to be part of the inaugural issue and look forward to seeing it and the rest of the poets at AWP in NYC.

Settling In

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:53 am

After the transcontinental journey, the 2-person unloading of my truck-o-books-n-stuff, and the various shopping sprees required to restock shelves and make a place habitable, I am now settling in.

At this point my sister has flown back to Canada and returned to work and family. My roommate arrived on Aug 5 and has been setting up camp in his room (almost literally — he’s living out of his suitcases and sleeps on an air mattress). Over the past week we’ve both been to campus a fair bit to take care of international student requirements and departmental orientation. I finished registering for my classes this morning, so I can finally say that I’m officially a PhD student at USC.

I’ve unpacked 80% of my books, predictably running out of shelf space early. I could add another bookcase, but worry that my room will start to feel too cluttered. The important thing is that my poetry books are all unpacked and shelved.

For some reason I never feel settled until the poetry is unpacked and on the shelves — there’s a comfort there — a sense of things in their proper place. Now, sitting in my desk chair surveying the room, I can see my materials around me — and in that context, something good can happen. I’m hoping for clarity and insight. Good poetry. Words. The kind that stun and overwhelm. Enter muse. Set the page aflame.

July 27, 2007

The Road Goes Ever On

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 8:08 am

After spending the last few weeks packing and getting organized, the time has finally come to leave. In a way, it feels like I’ve been doing dry runs of this departure for the last little while. Last week I drove out to Vancouver to attend the Vancouver Summer Dream Literary Festival in Stanley Park. I spent the weekend with a friend in North Vancouver and had a good time visiting, despite the continuous downpour. I was even invited to sit on a panel at the festival and later asked to give a short reading. It was nice to be included in what undoubtedly was my last reading in Vancouver for some time. It was a good way to say goodbye to the city of rain.


This morning I head out with the last of my things and drive first to Vancouver where I’ll be dropping off my mother to catch a ferry to Victoria. (She’s headed over to babysit for the next week or so while my sister helps me drive my things down to LA). On Sunday I’ll be picking up my sister from the ferry and we’ll stay overnight at one of her friend’s. And then the real journey begins We’ll drive for about 3 days before arriving in LA. After unloading the truck, we’ll spend the next few days acquiring furniture — craigslist will be our friend. Then my sister flies back to Victoria.


Journeys like this one are somewhat epidemic in our family. It seems we are always embarking on some long road which turns and winds into the unknown, but promises a new vista – a new unfolding world. For this journey, I’ve stocked up on books on CD and will listen to the 13 cd BBC version of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Fitting in a way, because on the journey from LA to Vancouver, I listened to The Hobbit. On my last road trip to Vancouver, I listened to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road — a post-apocalyptic road trip which fit the mood, the ending of which made me think of my own father. Strange how these things work out.


I’m excited about this journey, but sobered as well — once again I am leaving “home” and will not be able to return. The house is up on the market and my mother hopes to move to Victoria before the year’s end. Once again “home” will become unanchored and unknown — more a sense of being, than place.


There is something about the hum of the road — the wide open sky — the movement of one speck across the vast skin of earth. What is it about this traversal – this transportation of one’s markers of space and identity – that is so compelling? Is it the sense that we can remake ourselves anew at each stop? Is it that we jettison so much of the old along the way? That we are anonymous in our journeying? Each move is an act of translation, and from mathematics we know that every translation is a transformation.


See you in a few days. I’ll be back online on Aug 5. Till then, be good.

July 15, 2007

Boxcar Poetry Review — Issue 9 is Up

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:22 pm

New issue is up — check it out here:

In this issue:


  • Mary Alexandra Agner: “Mercedes”
  • Cynthia Arrieu-King: “White Suitcase” (ghazal)
  • Michelle Bitting: “4 Sentenced for Smashing Bluebird Houses”
  • Marco A. Domínguez: “The Death of Head and Leg”
  • Theresa Edwards: “Backseat 1965 Forward, Back”
  • Jeremy Heartberg: “Seven”
  • Lilah Hegnauer: “Her Camisoles” (ghazal)
  • Jerry D. Mathes II: “Almost First Light in Autumn: Atlas Mountains”
  • Kristine Ong Muslim: “Antiprayer, 2″
  • William Neumire: “An Immortal in Therapy”
  • Sarah Sloat: “Hive”
  • Karen Weyant: “Why Men in Factories Should Never Write Love Stories”


  • “What to Eat, What to Drink, Where to Go From Here: An Interview with Camille Dungy by Sean Hill”


  • “Satisfying the Ghazal Mind” ~ Tree Riesener


  • “Expression in Form” and “Creations of Man” ~ John Vanderpant

July 10, 2007

Appearing Soon in the Completely Mixed Up Anthology

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 8:17 pm

More good news! Five more poems will be making their appearance in the upcoming Completely Mixed: An Asian North American Mixed Race Anthology.

This anthology has already been picked up for classroom use in Canada and hopefully in a number of schools in the US. It’s a unique collecting together of mixed race writers of Asian North American backgrounds — I’m not aware of any other anthology with this particular scope and emphasis. As hybridity and transnationality and transracial issues become more and more commonplace, anthologies like this one hopefully will help provide a good cross-section to what’s happening in the literary world of Asian North American mixed race writers.

July 9, 2007

Two Poems Up at DMQ Review

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:19 pm

I’m pleased and quite honored to have two poems appear in the new Spring & Summer 2007 issue of DMQ Review.

These are from another book project, Letters to the Unknown Wife, which I’ve been working on in between editing The Lost Country of Sight and researching Babbage’s Dream.

Also appearing in this issue are Boxcar poets Joe Wilkins and Arlene Ang. Check it out!

July 7, 2007

Lucky Day

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 8:13 am

Well, I’m behind again — so here’s a brief recap of the last few weeks.

Big elbow blues (June 13-July 5) While we were out traveling in Saskatchewan, I managed to hurt my elbow due to poor sleeping arrangements and long days of driving. End result: a mild case of elbow bursitis which didn’t seem so mild at first. It’s amazing how fragile the body can be sometimes — and how big one’s elbow can get when you been driving three days straight with no rest after hyperextending it. Thankfully my elbow has returned to normal (well, about 90% back to normal). Lots of ice, Advil extra strength, and rest.

Apartment hunting (June 23-July 3). Flew down to Los Angeles and spent a week looking at different places before signing a lease for a 2 bedroom / 2 bath which I’ll share with one of the other incoming PhD students. I had originally wanted a 1 bedroom for myself, but rents in LA have gone up and I couldn’t justify the expense with the monthly income of a PhD student.

I almost ended up somewhere else though. I had strongly considered getting a 1-bedroom loft in downtown LA, but in the end found paying $1300-$1800 for a tiny place with a great view and cool surroundings just wasn’t a good investment for me. If my monthly income as a PhD student is somewhere around $1900-$2100, spending almost everything on the apartment/loft seems foolish (and a bit vain).

My loft hunting trip did provide me a brief brush with celebrity — I spent a morning touring different loft sites with a young attractive female singer/actress who evidently is doing quite well for herself. Anyway, she seemed to be in a better position to get a place — but even she was complaining about how overpriced some of the lofts seemed to be.

House on the Market My return home coincided with my mother’s last push to get the house in order to put on the market. We’ve spent the last week cleaning, putting things in storage (or just out of sight), and meeting with the realtor. The house goes on the online listing sites this weekend and the realtors will tour the place on Monday and Tuesday. After that we expect to have a lot of showings. Evidently the market is very hot right now — which is a good thing for us.

Catching up on Boxcar My battle with bursitis and the mandatory rest involved put a serious damper on work for Boxcar — but I’m catching up and hope to be clear of the backlog this weekend. Layout work continues slowly, but moves forward now that I’ve mostly recovered.

New work out or nearly out I have 2 poems out in the latest issue of Redactions and another 2 poems due out shortly in DMQ Review (I’ve seen and ok’d the proofs, so the issue should be going up soon). What’s interesting is that these two sets of poems represent work from two new manuscripts. Redactions has 2 poems which come from the Babbage’s Dream manuscript. DMQ Review has 2 poems from the Letters to the Unknown Wife manuscript.

I’ve done more tinkering with the Lost Country of Sight manuscript, removing a couple of poems and adding a new one. It’s strong and I think finally done (but I’m always saying that every few months!).

June 23, 2007

Rewind: Scenes from Saskatchewan

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:15 pm

Ok — I’m way behind on posting, but hopefully these pictures will help sum things up.

Two reasons to fall in love with Saskatchewan: the sky and the land









June 8, 2007

Awkward Poetry Moment and Some Suggestions

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:15 pm

Today I received an email from an online literary journal informing me that they would like to publish three of my poems. Great news, right? Except that these were three poems which had all been accepted within the last few weeks.

Now, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. I had followed the standard protocol — notifying them of the withdrawal of these poems immediately after receiving word of their acceptance from the other journals. My initial submissions all indicated that the included poems were under consideration elsewhere and that I would notify them in the event that they were accepted elsewhere. In all respects, it appears to me that the problem lies in their bookkeeping.

As the editor of an online journal myself (and a victim of similar situation just recently), I can sympathize with the problem of keeping the records straight when there is a backlog of submissions to deal with. A withdrawal notice can easily be lost in the midst of so many new entries. So what can be done so that this doesn’t happen?

Some possible solutions for journals:

  1. Use an email header tag (eg. [WITHDRAW] ) or email alias ( to ensure that withdrawal notices are filtered to one location for easy reference
  2. Search your inbox for any subsequent emails from an author whose work you have decided to accept to verify that there have been no withdrawal notices sent (gmail is excellent for doing this
  3. Check your inbox daily and make notes on the submissions which have had poems withdrawn. I use gmail and will forward the original submission to myself and add a note at the top indicating which poems have been withdrawn — this keeps the note connected to the same “conversation” (gmail terminology).

In any case, this situation is one of the risks of allowing simultaneous submissions. While the poet certainly has an obligation to report when poems have been accepted elsewhere, the journal also has a responsibility to read and track such notices.

On the side of prevention, I think this also reflects the need for each journal to respond in a more timely fashion when it comes to submissions they like. If they sit too long on a poem they like, it may be taken by a faster acting journal. All three journals involved are places I would be happy to have my work appear in — so it’s a shame to have to say no to one.

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