The Hermit Poet

February 23, 2006

Selling Poetry in the Song Dynasty

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:17 am

A little anecdote I gleaned from a lecture by Ronald Egan on “Early Book Printing in China (11th-12th Centuries) and Its Impact Upon Thinking About the Written Word.”

Evidently Wang Qi, the governor of Suzhou, having borrowed a large sum from the prefacture to expand his banquet hall, found himself short of the funds to repay his debt. He decided that he would print 10,000 copies of Du Fu (Tu Fu)’s poetry and sell them for 1,000 cash each. This venture was so successful, that he sold every single copy of the print run and was able to not only pay off his debt, but actually make a substantial profit.

As Professor Egan pointed out, selling out a first print run of 10,000 copies for a book of poetry is unheard of today. And this idea of poetry turning a profit… well that’s just absurd!

February 22, 2006

The Making of Poems

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:16 pm

Thanks to Peter’s blog, I found this wonderful article by Gregory Orr on the making of poems and why we write. Given that this quarter I’m taking a class on The Poetry of Witness, what he had to say rang especially true. Check it out here.

“Because poems are meanings, even the saddest poem I write is proof that I want to survive.”
~ Gregory Orr

February 21, 2006

Plugging Kundiman 2006

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 7:37 pm

Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat
June 21 – 25, 2006
Deadline: Postmark March 1, 2006

In order to help mentor the next generation of Asian-American poets, Kundiman is sponsoring an annual Poetry Retreat at The University of Virginia. During the Retreat, nationally renowned Asian American poets will conduct workshops and provide one-on-one mentorship sessions with participants. Readings and informal social gatherings will also be scheduled. Through this Retreat, Kundiman hopes to provide a safe and instructive environment that identifies and addresses the unique challenges faced by emerging Asian American poets. This 5-day Retreat will take place from Wednesday to Sunday. Workshops will be conducted from Thursday to Saturday. Workshops will not exceed six students.


Arthur Sze is a second-generation Chinese American. Educated at the University of California, Berkeley, Sze is the author of five volumes of poetry, including most recently The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1998), a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. His poems have also appeared in numerous magazines, including American Poetry Review, The Paris Review, Mother Jones, Conjunctions, and The Bloomsbury Review. Translations of Sze’s work have been published in Italy and China. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, three Witter Bynner Foundation Poetry Fellowships, and two Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sze currently directs the Creative Writing Program at the Institute for American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he has taught for more than a decade.

Kazim Ali is the author of The Far Mosque (Alice James Books). His poems and essays have appeared in such journals as The Iowa Review, Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review and Catamaran, and in the anthologies Writing the Lines of Our Hands and Risen From the East. A graduate of the Creative Writing Program at New York University, he is the author of a novel, Quinn’s Passage. He is the publisher of Nightboat Books and assistant professor of English at Shippensburg University.

Jennifer Chang holds degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Gulf Coast, New England Review, Pleiades, Virginia Quarterly Review, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, Best New Poets 2005, and other publications. The title poem of her manuscript The History of Anonymity received the 2004 Campbell Corner Poetry prize. She is the 2005 Van Lier Fellow in Poetry at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and was awarded the Louis Untermeyer scholarship to the 2005 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She teaches in the creative writing program at Rutgers University.

Jon Pineda is the author of Birthmark (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), winner of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry Open Competition. A recipient of a Virginia Commission for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, he is a graduate of James Madison University and of the MFA program in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received an AWP Intro Award for Poetry. His recent work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Sou’wester and various anthologies.


Requests for financial aid should be made after acceptance to the retreat. As Kundiman is a new non-profit, there is a very limited amount of financial aid available. Awards will be given on a need-based basis. Average award amount is $100. To keep the cost of the retreat low for all participants, fees are not charged for workshops or programming. Room and Board for the retreat is $300.


Send five to seven (5-7) paginated, stapled pages of poetry, with your name included on each page. Include a cover letter with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and a brief paragraph describing what you would like to accomplish at the Kundiman Asian American Poets’ Retreat. Include a SAS postcard if you want an application receipt. Manuscripts will not be returned. No electronic submissions, please.

Mail application to:

245 Eighth Avenue #151
New York, NY 10011

Submissions must be postmarked by March 1, 2006

February 9, 2006

Another Update to the 2005 First Books List

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 6:10 pm

Just added Ann Keniston’s The Caution of Human Gestures from WordTech Press.  Check out the entire list here.

I’ll be starting a 2006 First Books List soon.

Neck Deep

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 2:19 am

Wondering where I’ve been?

The past few weeks I’ve been neck deep in:
1. Pleghm – a cold that leaves me with a dry throat in the morning and clogged chest in the afternoon.

2. Revisions – two of my readers from my thesis committee have returned their notes and suggestions on my manuscript — it’s amazing all the tiny nick-picky things people will note. Glad they’re making notes though — it’s useful to see where a poem might be going astray.

3. Submissions – Boxcar Poetry Review is in full swing — submissions have been rolling in pretty steadily, and recently picked up after the official CFP went out. It’s a bit odd to be on the other side of the rejection notice.

4. Reading – between my Poetry of Witness (mostly wartime poetry) and my Chinese classic novels classes, I’m quite swamped with reading and assignments. Some weeks it’s upwards of 600 pages.

5. Grading – at least I will be neck deep next week when my students turn in their poetry revisions.

Elsewhere in the world:

1. My nephew Thomas had his first birthday.

2. My father recently announced his retirement from the Regina Public Library’s Prairie History Room. He’ll be leaving the library to go full time as an independent family history and geneaology lecturer and educator. Busy guy — he’ll be on the road a lot for conferences and seminars.

3. Joseph Legaspi from the Kundiman team received word that his first book has been accepted for publication.
4. Boxcar Poetry Review got a face lift.