The Hermit Poet

September 20, 2005

Congrats to Barbara Jane Reyes

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 2:18 pm

Send your congratulatory notes and praise to Barbara Jane Reyes — she’s just been awarded with the 2005 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets for her second book, “Poeta en San Francisco” (Tinfish Press). Fantastic news for a great poet and blogger! Read all about it on her blog

September 19, 2005

Favorite Poem of My Own

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:02 am

I have a few favorite poems of my own, many of which are still seeking a home in a journal somewhere out there. Of the ones that have been published, there are two or three that have become quite meaningful to me.

This one began as a recollection of a summer spent weeding on a farm in Saskatchewan. The other laborer was a twenty-something Cree Indian who was saving up to start a family with his girlfriend. Everyday in the 90-100 degree weather we worked in the sun, pulling Russian thistle and other weeds by hand. We talked a bit about work and why we do it, and sometimes we’d talk about religion and belief. He shared with me his experiences in sweat lodges and dancing the Sun Dance — both of which had fascinated me. Looking at this poem, it now occurs to me why I like it so much — it also captures my feelings about poets and poetry. In the end, we all do the same work. Race, gender, religious belief, and political ideology have little significance in how I value the work that a fellow poet produces. In the end, we’re all human — we all write about what that means to us.

Sun Dance

Just the two of us at sunrise,
bent backs beneath the hot sky
pulling weeds in run off ditches.
Our hands raw and sore
from grasping the stubborn stalks
of tall grass and thistle,
we bleed a little with every pull.

We turn with the wind
watch loose seeds escape
borne away to unknown ends,
while we succumb to the heat, drift off
in daydreams, our bodies moving on unattended,
two machines in slow motion
redeeming the land from its last fall.
We sweat salt rivers till we are clean again
almost brothers despite blood and skin,

despite arbitrary questions of race
the earth marks our hands and arms the same way,
enters our veins through new scars
the sun paints us brown and gold
buries us in its last blood
before sinking beneath the weight of night.


first published in Prairie Poetry

September 15, 2005

More Happy Kundiman News

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:20 am

My good friend and fellow Kundiman grad Chi Lam just let me know that Shenandoah will be publishing her poem “ink & water” — a poem she polished and read for us at Kundiman. It so moved Lawson Inada, that he gave up his feature block at the public reading at Kundiman because he wanted everyone to hear this piece.

It’s powerful. Brilliant imagery. Gripping narrative. Has goldfish and speedo-clad Thai pirates that come in the night. Terrifying and amazing work. Pick up the next issue of Shenandoah and read it for yourself.

And It’s Off to the Races

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:14 am

I just mailed my first manuscript out for this round of book competitions. I feel very good about my (hopefully) book-to-be. I’m not certain where or when, but I do feel that The Lost Country of Sight will find itself a publisher. It’s only 52 pages right now — but it may grow a bit as I write more pertinent material.

I’m excited. I know better than to be so optimistic — there’s hundreds, possibly thousands of other poetry manuscripts floating out there. Some of them truly exceptional. But this time I’m sending out a killer. Or, as my poet friend Yuzun might say, a monster. A real monster. Finely tuned and dangerous, with lots of spikey bits for good measure. Fire-breathing on Thursdays.

Go little poetry monster. Go.

After the Storm, This Bit of News

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:06 am

Updated: Evidently news of Mr. LaPrise’s passing has been circulating since his actual death in 1996.

My friend Jayson sent me the following news bit:

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote “The Hokey Pokey,” died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in.

And then the trouble started.

Shut up. You know it’s funny.

September 3, 2005

Book Contests – Fall & Winter

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:28 am

Updated: As C. Dale Young kindly pointed out, with all the changes at the Paris Review, it might be best to skip the Paris Review / Zoo Press contest this year.

As my manuscript nears completion (hopefully), I’m on the look out for someplace to publish. As a Canadian, I’m excluded from certain first book contests, so I’ve decided to build a list of contests that are willing to look at work from a non-US citizen who currently resides in the US (eg. Canadian graduate student studying at an American university).

Note: When I’ve marked a judge as TBA, it usually means that the judge is well-known but will not be disclosed until after the judging is completed. Unknown refers to an unspecified judge (could be an editorial board or the publisher)

Here’s my list — hopefully it’s useful for someone else out there:


Sep 15
Northeastern University — Samuel Morse Poetry Prize
50-70 pages, $15 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Northeastern University Press
Judge: TBA

Sep 30
University of Massachusetts Press — Juniper Prize
50-70 pages, $20 fee
$1500 prize + publication by University of Massachusetts Press+reading
Judge: Unknown

Sep 30
Ohio State University Press — Journal Award
48+ pages, $25 fee (buys one year subscription to the Journal)
$3000 prize + publication by Ohio State University Press
Judge: Unknown

Sep 30
Pleiades Press — Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Series Award
48+ pages, $15 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Pleiades Press (LSU Press)
Judge: Linda Bierds

Sep 30
University of Wisconsin Press — Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes
50-80 pages, $25 fee
$1000 prize + publication by University of Wisconsin Press
Judge: Unknown

Sep 30
Utah State University Press — May Swenson Poetry Award
50-100 pages, $25 fee (a No Winner decision is possible)
$1000 prize + publication by Utah State University Press
Judge: Edward Field

Oct 15
Silverfish Review Press — Gerald Cable Book Award
48+ pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Silverfish Review Press, 100 copies
Judge: Unknown

Oct 31
Elixir Press — Poetry Awards
48+ pages, $25 fee
$2000 prize + publication by Elixir Press
Judge: TBA (editor judges 2nd prize)

Oct 31
Red Hen Press — Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award
48-96 pages, $20 fee
$3000 prize + publication by Red Hen Press
Judge: Alicia Ostriker and James Ragan

Oct 31
Story Line Press — Frederick Morgan Poetry Prize
48+ pages, $25 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Story Line Press
Judge: Unknown

Oct 31
Truman State University Press — T.S. Eliot Prize
60-100 pages, $25 fee
$2000 prize + publication by Truman State University Press
Judge: TBA

Oct 31
Zoo Press — Paris Review Prize (does this still exist?)
**With all the changes at Paris Review, you might want to skip this contest until things are stable**

Oct 31
Ohio University Press — Hollis Summers Poetry Contest
60-95 pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Ohio University Press
Judge: TBA

Sep 1 – Oct 31
Fordham University — Poets Out Loud Prize
50-80 pages, $25 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Fordham University Press
Judge: Alberto Rios

Nov 8
Winnow Press — First Book Award in Poetry
50-100 pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Winnow Press + 50 copies + 100 postcards + 100 bookmarks
Judge: Kathleen Peirce

Oct 1 – Nov 15
Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference — Bakeless Literary Publication Prizes
50+ pages, $10 fee
Publication by Houghton Mifflin + fellowship to attend Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference
Judge: Mark Doty

Nov 15
University of North Texas Press — Vassar Miller Prize
50-80 pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + publication by University of North Texas Press
Judge: TBA

Nov 15
Many Mountains Moving — Poetry Book Contest
50-100 pages, $25 fee (buys 2 issues of th e journal)
$750 prize + publication by Many Mountains Moving
Judge: TBA

Oct 1 – Nov 16
Crab Orchard Series in Poetry — Open Award Competition
50-80 pages, $25 fee
$3500 prize + publication by Southern Illinois University Press
Judge: Leslie Adrienne Miller?

Nov 30
BOA Editions, Ltd. — A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize
48-100 pages, $22 fee
$1500 prize + publication by BOA Editions, Ltd.
Judge: Elizabeth Spires

Nov 30
Bright Hill Press — Poetry Book Competition
48-65 pages, $20 fee
$1000 + publication by Bright Hill Press + 25 copies
Judge: Unknown

Nov 1- Nov 30
Copper Canyon Press — Hayden Carruth Award
46-150 pages, $25 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Copper Canyon Press
Judge: Publisher

Nov 30
New Issues — Poetry Prize
48+ pages, $15 fee
$2000 + publication by New Issues Press (Western Michigan University)
Judge: Barbara Hamby

Nov 30
White Pine Press — Poetry Prize
60-80 pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + publication by White Pine Press
Judge: TBA

Dec 1
Tupelo Press — Dorset Prize
48-80 pages, $25 fee
$10,000 prize + publication by Tupelo Press (Consortium distribution)
Judge: Linda Gregerson

Dec 1
Alice James Books — Beatrice Hawley Award
50-70 pages, $25 fee
$2000 prize + publication by Alice James Books
Judge: Editorial board

Dec 15
Gival Press — Annual Gival Press Poetry Award
45+ pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + publication by Gival Press + 20 copies
Judge: Paula Goldman (last year’s winner)

Dec 31
Tampa Review — Tampa Review Prize for Poetry
48-100 pages, $20 fee
$1000 prize + hard back publication by University of Tampa Press + selected poems featured in Tampa Review
Judge: Unknown

Jan 15
Del Sol Press — Annual Del Sol Poetry Prize
50-100 pages, $22 fee
$1200 + publication by Del Sol Press + 20 copies
Judge: Mary Jo Bang

Jan 16
BkMk Press — John Ciardi Prize for Poetry
50-110 pages, $25 fee
$1000 + publication by BkMk Press (University of Missouri – Kansas City)
Judge: TBA

Oct 1 – Jan 17
Colorado Review — Colorado Prize for Poetry
40-100 pages, $25 fee
$1500 prize + publication by the Center for Literary Publication (Colorado State University)
Judge: Lyn Hejinian