The Hermit Poet

December 25, 2005

Greetings from Canada

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

Merry Christmas! It’s white and cold and incredibly beautiful. I’ve been busy all day with church services, eating, entertaining my new nephew, and in general not being a poet or a student.

When it comes down to it, I don’t need much to be happy. While it was nice to be home and to have lots of gifts this year, what I enjoyed most was simply being here with family and seeing old friends. As I grow older, it’s really these relationships that matter most. I am very happy this year with the many new friends I’ve made through Kundiman and Idyllwild. I’m grateful for the doors that have opened. Grateful as well for projects that are nearing completion and others that are about to launch. Being busy, healthy, and at peace are great blessings in anyone’s life.

When I head back to Riverside, I’ll be more broke than I’ve been in years — but I’ll be happy. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing with my life. Writing and teaching, editing and researching, designing and building. This coming year promises to be a full one.

Wherever you are, may this year and next be full of peace and happiness — and may the right words find you at the right time.

December 20, 2005

Wrong Neil

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:09 pm

After reading Eduardo’s blog where he notes that he’s not Eduardo the belly dancer, I find myself sitting here in the wintery realm of Saskatchewan wondering about how many Neil Aitkens I’m not.

Here’s a Google census of Neil Aitkens.

1. Neil Aitken who takes pictures of trains in Hungary.
2. Neil Aitken the runner
3. Neil Aitken the Scottish bass player.
4. Neil Aitken who plays fiddle sometimes with a Maritime band called None Crete.
5. Neil Aitken captured here in an old b&w photo as a crying Arnold House schoolboy in the front row of a class photo.
6. Neil Aitken the used bookdealer, nonfiction writer, and resident of Gabriola Island who happens to also be my uncle.
7. Neil Aitken the lawyer and legal expert specializing in land law.
8. Neil Aitken the Blue Cross insurance agent.
9. Neil Aitken, self-employed joiner and glazier who designs expresso cups.
10. Neil Aitken who is a professional arbitrator in the UK.
11. Neil Aitken who is the owner and sole director of Redback Productions.
12. Neil Aitken the amateur cricket player in the Nidderdale League.
13. Neil Aitken, the creator of website for Alice Springs, Australia.
14. Neil Aitken who “remembers having to walk along Duck Street in 2’s for school dinners in the canteen, going to school in ‘Just William trousers’ and dancing to the ‘Gay Gordons’ in the assembly hall. Finally, having to go the Nit Nurse – ‘but I ain’t got nits miss'”
15. Neil Aitken, Philadelphia police official commenting on a wounded whale.
16. Neil Aitken, drummer with Louis Freeman’s band in Glasgow during 1934.

December 19, 2005

Another Poet Blogger to Watch

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:18 pm

One of my friends from Kundiman has just joined the poet-blogging world — take a moment to check out Jee Leong Koh’s Song of a Reformed Headhunter. He’ll be posting poetry and seeking feedback on a regular basis.

Villanelle, pantoums, sestinas, sonnets — Jee Leong writes them all, but every case the story and language cast a spell so strong we might miss what is happening formally because we are so entranced by the telling.

December 15, 2005

Shin Yu Pai at the Boiler Room in Redlands (12/14)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 7:22 pm

With the first sounds of her er-hu filling the Boiler Room Bar, Marie Char the guest musician, opened the reading by playing a long plaintive classical Chinese piece called “The Flowing River.” I found myself thinking, if longing has a voice, it must be the er-hu. So much melancholy lives in the sound of these two strings and a bow. Sometime, listen to the soundtrack of any film directed by Zhang Yi-Mou’s films, especially “To Live” — you’ll hear it and fall in love with the sound.

Shin Yu Pai was the featured poet and gave what is arguably the most educational and captivating reading I’ve attended yet. Aided by modern technology in the form of a digital projector and numerous art and location images, Shin Yu took us on a journey both through her poetry and the world of modern art. She moved through various stages. First, she brought us in with poems and discussion centered around her first book, Equivalence, which draws its title from Stieglitz’s series of cloud images. Just as Stieglitiz tried to establish a correllary between human emotional states and the light and shadow of the sky, Shin Yu was working with the correllation between the poem and the art object, as well as whatever and whoever appeared in the scene at the time. Thus, in her opening poem, she presented a b&w image of an exhibit of classical Japanese art scrolls behind glass, the scene cut by several dark shadowy pillars, and read about a father and daughter she had observed there. “Where does the story start?” the father asks. “Here,” says the daughter with her hand on the glass pane. I can’t do it justice, but it is a great poem.

Soon we were all over the map of modern and contemporary art. Visual poetry crept in. There were poems inspired by Mondrian’s approach, who in turn was influenced by the color theories of Seurrat. Another avenue we toured was the theory of Jumpology, that is that people only shed their false mask when caught in the act of leaping. And so, we observed a remarkable still of the painter Dali mid leap, with buckets of water and several black cats thrown across the stage. Other avenues we went down: the installation work Gonzalez-Torres, both the stacks and the candy piles. We encountered artists who collect fresh pollen every spring to create minimalist architectures on the floor. Why am I only speaking about art and images, because in so many cases the auditory experience of the poems became inseparable from the visual experience of the image. One collage of senses.

In later poems and images, Shin Yu took us into the strangely surreal world of Japanese love hotels — the empty themed rooms, the oddly-stocked vending machines, and disturbing intersection between high school girl materialism and deep pockets of unscrupulous salarymen.

All in all, it was journey. Something about what we see and what we think we see. Language becomes material. Another layer upon the layers of art and the world it evolves from. I came away from the reading with a head full of ideas — things I wanted to see and know in a similar way. What better response can one hope from a reading — to leave an audience haunted by a desire for more.

As one of the audience pointed out to me afterward, she really does have a fantastic presenting voice — completely comfortable with the work and seamless in its integration with the entire presentation.

December 14, 2005

Last Night’s Reading in Review

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:14 am

The reading in Aliso Viejo was great. I loved the space — it was outdoors in the patio between the library and the coffee shop. Great sound system there as well. A nice lamp overhead and beyond it the cool winter night sky (ok, cool for Californians). It was a small gathering: a few poets – both compelling readers, a three-man acoustic guitar group — who were amazing, a guest host who drove almost as far as I did to fill in for the evening, and the owners of the coffee shop who actually sat out in the patio to listen. Shawn Turi who was the guest host gave such a glowing introduction I was thinking I had come on the wrong night and that she must be introducing someone completely different!

So yes, despite 2+ hours of being trapped on a closed freeway, I had a fantastic time. Even if I spent only 30 minutes there and a total of 3 hours on freeways traveling back and forth – it was worth it in my books.

Habitat for Bloggers

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 2:32 am

Anne Haines has set up a little virtual community on That’s right, a bunch of poet-bloggers drawing their dream homes. Check out my new digs — The Hermit’s Hut — which arguably is way too big for any self-respecting hermit. I also can’t explain why I have managed to come out looking Amish in the picture.

December 13, 2005

Pushcart Nomination

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 2:37 pm

This just in — my poem “After Neruda” has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I’m excited and humbled. There’s a lot of stiff competition each year — many many fantastic poems and poets are nominated for inclusion. Whether or not it makes into the Pushcart anthology, I’m happy at least to have one of my poems under consideration.

December 12, 2005

Boxcar Poetry Review Goes Live

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:39 pm

It’s official — I purchased the domain earlier today for $5.99/year and set it to forward to the current home of the journal. Set your bookmarks to here and come back often.

If you’re in the market to register domain names, I highly recommend going through — they are probably the cheapest and easiest place to work with. Their server packages are reasonably priced if you don’t have server space already. Since I already have server space, I skipped that part.

First Books: 2005 List

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 5:44 pm

Gearing up for the launch of Boxcar Poetry Review, I’m building a list of first books of poetry published in 2005. It’s not complete by any means — if you know of books I’m missing, please comment with the author and title, and I’ll add it to the list. I’ll be working on this for the next few weeks.


  • Ali, Kazim. The Far Mosque. Alice James Books.
  • Baker, Andrea. Like Wind Loves a Window. Slope Editions.
  • Benka, Jen. A Box of Longing with 50 Drawers. Soft Skull Press.
  • Bergman, Denise. Seeing Annie Sullivan. Cedar Hill Books.
  • Buntin, Simmons B. Riverfall. Salmon Publishing.
  • Byrd, Brigitte. Fence Above the Sea. Ahsahta Press.
  • Campana, Joseph. The Book of Faces. Graywolf Press
  • Chang, Victoria. Circle (Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry). Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Compton, Shanna. Down Spooky. Winnow Press.
  • Cunningham, Brent. Bird & Forest. Ugly Duckling Presse.
  • De Luna, Blas Manuel. Bent to the Earth. Carnegie Mellon University Press.
  • Doran, Geri. Resin (Walt Whitman Award). Lousiana State University Press.
  • Farewell, Patricia. From the Lighthouse (Frederick Morgan Poetry Prize Library). Story Line Press.
  • Finney, Sean. The Obedient Door. Meritage Press.
  • Glenum, Lara. The Hounds of No. Action Books.
  • Hegnauer, Lilah. Dark Under Kiganda Stars. Ausuable Press.
  • Jess, Tyehimba. Leadbelly (National Poetry Series). Verse Press.
  • Keniston, Ann.  The Caution of Human Gestures.  WordTech Press.
  • Kim, Geraldine. Povel. Fence Books.
  • Knox, Jennifer L. A Gringo Like Me. Soft Skull Press.
  • Lamon, Laurie. Fork Without Hunger: Poems. Cavan Kerry Press
  • Larsen, David. The Thorn. Faux Press
  • Lee, Corinne. Pyx (National Poetry Series). Penguin Books.
  • Lee, Ed Bok. Real Karaoke People (New Rivers’ Press Many Voices Project). New Rivers’ Press.
  • Linmark, R. Zamora. Prime-Time Apparitions. Hanging Loose Press.
  • Loudermilk, A. Strange Valentine (Crab Orchard Award). Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Luna, Sheryl. Pity the Drowned Horses (Andres Montoya Prize). University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Mathys, Ted. Forge. Coffee House Press.
  • Maxwell, Susan. Passenger (Contemporary Poetry Series). University of Georgia Press.
  • Mikhail, Dunya. The War Works Hard. New Directions
  • Moore, Berwyn. Dissolution of Ghosts. Wordtech Communications
  • Norton, Sean. Bad with Faces. Red Morning Press.
  • Ostashevsky, Eugene. Iterature. Ugly Duckling Presse.
  • Pafunda, Daniella. Pretty Young Things. Soft Skull Press.
  • Schwerer, Eric. Whittling Lessons. Finishing Line Press.
  • Shenoda, Matthew. Somewhere Else. Coffee House Press.
  • Sims, Laura. Practice, Restraint. Fence Books.
  • Smith, Aaron. Blue on Blue Ground (Pitt Poetry Series). University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Staples, Heidi Lynn. Guess Can Gallop. New Issues Poetry & Prose.
  • Taylor, Sam. Body of the World. Ausuable Press.
  • Thomas, Amber Flora. Eye of the Water: Poems (Pitt Poetry Series). University of Pittsburg
  • Turner, Brian. Here, Bullet (Beatrice Hawley Award). Alice James Books.
  • Webster, Kerri. We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (Contemporary Poetry Series). University of Georgia Press.
  • Wing, Catherine. Enter Invisible (Woodford Reserve Series in Kentucky Literature). Sarabande Books
  • Ye Chun. Travel over Water. Bitter Oleander Press.

December 11, 2005

Upcoming Reading: Tuesday, Dec 13 7:30 pm

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:04 pm

I’ll be the featured poet at the Neighborhood Cup in Aliso Viejo. Here are the details for those in the area.

Tuesday December 13, 2005 – 7:30 PM
The Neighborhood Cup
1 Journey, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

Here’s the map

It’s a bit of a drive, but it should be a lot of fun. I’ll be reading mostly from my manuscript with some newer pieces mixed in.

Next Page »