The Hermit Poet

December 9, 2005

What Goes Around

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 6:47 pm

Everyone else in blogland is doing this and I’m feeling left out, so here goes…

Ten Years Ago
I have returned home from two years in Taiwan as a missionary and now am in the midst of my first semester back at university. Contrary to what everyone tells me about how my study habits are supposed to have improved, they haven’t. I’m still a bit culture-shocked and part of me longs for the simplicity of being a missionary. I am also realizing that computer and electrical engineering is not really where I’m supposed to be. Nevertheless I’ll stick it out for another two years before eventually switching to Computer Science. My dating life is non-existent — but I’m completely oblivious to that. I’ve discovered rhetoric instead and have slowly begun writing poetry again after a break of several years.

Five Years Ago
I’ve been working for almost a year already at Knowledge Adventure, a software company in Glendale, California, that specializes in writing children’s educational software (read: kids games). I had managed to talk myself into this programming position on the basis of reasonably good performance on various programming tests and a number of phone interviews. Life in southern California is different than what I expected. I’m a bit lonely, but have made enough friends to get by.

One Year Ago
After five years of working on various computer games, I’ve quit my programming job with KA which has since become part of the megaconglomerate Vivendi Universal Games. I’m already part-way through my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside. I love being a student again, and especially love writing and workshopping. Living in Riverside is an adjustment though — I miss the proximity and vibrancy of the Los Angeles poetry scene. I also miss home. Due to a mixup with the Canadian passport office in Ottawa, my passport fails to arrive in time and I have to cancel my flight home to Canada. I spend Christmas mostly by myself, though a family from church does take me in for Christmas dinner. I’m well into my manuscript and hope to finish it in the new year.

I spend the half the day designing and coding the initial draft of the website for Boxcar Poetry Review. In the evening I head out with the intention of attending a poetry reading in Redlands. I manage to get myself on the wrong freeway, then fight my way to the location barely in time, and then discover that I’ve confused this reading date with another. It wasn’t Redlands I was supposed to be going to — it was Huntington Beach. I end up missing the memorial reading for Anne Silver, an acquaintance from the LA poetry scene who passed away last month from breast cancer. I buy groceries and sit at home feeling like a heel.

BOXCAR Poetry Review: In the Works

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 1:41 pm

I’ve enjoyed working on CRATE so much that I’ll be launching my own poetry journal next year once I’m mostly finished with my co-editor responsibilities. I’m calling it Boxcar Poetry Review — you can see a sneak peek here.

Why a new journal? Well, the reasons are many.

1. Based on my experiences in Los Angeles and at various poetry retreats, I feel that there are still a lot of exciting poets who remain unknown despite writing incredibly well. This journal seeks to establish a space for them and their work.

2. So far no journal exists (that I’m aware of) which focuses its reviews and interviews on solely new poets with first books. If this is where innovation is happening (or not happening), shouldn’t we want to know about it? Too many first books simply disappear unnoticed and sometimes completely unreviewed.

3. I enjoy publishing and laying out journals. I’m also interested in how image and text can relate. I’m thinking of soliciting some visual poetry occasionally for cover art on the journal.


1. It’s a mobile container. Boxcars appear anywhere and everywhere, are re-routed through strange locations, come full circle, and almost always have something interesting inside of them.

2. It’s an icon that ties two of my worlds together — a symbol of the connection between the prairies and the coast.

Take a look and let me know what you think:

Boxcar Poetry Review

December 6, 2005

Cool Place to Stay in New York

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:38 pm

Next time I’m in New York, I want to stay here. At least for a night. Probably in 800.003 — Poetry.

The Library Hotel in New York City is the first hotel ever to offer its guest over 6,000 volumes organized throughout the hotel by the Dewey Decimal System.* Each of the 10 guestrooms floors honors one of the 10 categories of the DDC and each of the 60 rooms is uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category or floor it belongs to.

Nothing says bookworm like staying at the Library Hotel. Of course true diehards would argue that the hotel should be organized according to the Library of Congress filing system — but that would just be silly.

Good News in the Mailbox

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 6:15 pm

More good news in the mailbox today — “Outside Plato’s Republic the Last Poets Wait for Departure” will be appearing in the next issue of RHINO.

Yet another poem I owe to my experiences at the Kundiman retreat. I don’t think my manuscript would be half as good as it is now without the poems I wrote there.

As a sidenote, this acceptance is particularly satisfying because it marks the first of the new poems from this past year to make it into print. I can honestly say that I am proud of this publication and proud of this poem. While it’s nice to see my older work accepted for publication, there’s nothing as validating as seeing your current work find a home.

December 2, 2005

New Skool

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:02 pm

I wish school portraits were this cool when I was a kid…

Alternative School Portraits

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