The Hermit Poet

July 31, 2006

The Chapbook Review — My Latest Project

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 1:05 am

No, I haven’t stopped running Boxcar Poetry Review — but I have decided to launch The Chapbook Review as a second journal which is purely concerned with the reviewing, marketing, and producing of chapbooks (ie. no poetry submissions, just information and reviews).

A number of years ago I realized that very few publications review chapbooks, although often this is where some of the most exciting innovation in poetry is happening. Some chapbooks are miniature works of art in their own right. One of my favorites is a wire-bound landscape chapbook by Nina Simon called Science Fair which is illustrated with ink drawings from an artist friend of hers. The artwork fits perfectly — subtle, but effective in it’s approach — sufficient to create a dialogue between text and image. The poems are impressive in their own right. The combination makes for a very attractive publication. And there are many others, each providing a unique take on how to best present poetry in this most democratic of distribution models.

With such variety in both presentation and content, it seemed to me that there was room for a pubilcation devoted to the chapbook.

So I’m putting a general call out for:

1. reviews of chapbooks
announcements of recent chapbook releases
3. advice for poets assembling or marketing their chapbooks

4. calls for submissions for chapbook contests
5. how to… articles

The Chapbook Review is a community spot — a place for poets of all styles and levels of experience to congregate and contribute. I’ll try to also provide the occasional technology or software article as another sort of service.

So check it out and send something in to us. Or just comment on the posts.

July 25, 2006

MySpace for Bibliophiles?

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:13 am

If you haven’t seen this website, you really should. A place where you can enter in your book collection (just use the ISBN and it will figure out the book info) and create an online listing of your library. Even better than that though, is the fact that you can then see who else has the same books as you! It’s Friendster but your books are your friends (well, that’s already true isn’t it?)

Check it out here: Library Thing  — I’m boxcarpoet — I’ve made in-roads into cataloguing my collection, but I’m still only a third of the way through.

July 23, 2006

Not Canadian Enough

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 7:50 pm

After researching a wide range of writing and art grants, it has become apparent that I’m not Canadian enough. It seems I need to have lived in Canada for 12 months already before I can begin applying for grant assistance. In the meantime, I am ineligible for Canadian support. And, sadly enough, without US citizenship, I’m also ineligible for American support.

Other odd things uncovered in my research — the Canadian Arts Council has a strong bias against electronic literary journals and refuses to count them as part of your minimum 10 poetry publications to qualify for their grants. Which means that they wouldn’t count a poem in the Atlantic Unbound ( for instance, or Blackbird, or Diagram, let alone work in Boxcar Poetry Review. In a sense I can understand their point of view — mainly that there are so many bad or poorly juried online journals out there, why take the risk — but it also seems a bit outdated to me and somewhat naive — some online journals have a much tougher set of standards and are even more difficult to get accepted into than their print counterparts.
This week I’m planning to send out work to some Canadian journals. We’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

July 22, 2006

Penticton and Back Again

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:33 pm

I drove out to Penticton, BC last week to help my parents with their move from Regina.  For those unfamiliar with the layout of British Columbia, that’s about a 4-5 hour drive from where I live.  Not much between here and there – lots of empty land and mountain.
Penticton is out in interior BC – mostly orchard country — but to get there you have to go through the mountains.  As you might recall, my car isn’t always happy going through mountainous terrain.  This time I made through fine, but all along the way I felt as if I’d be better off driving a truck.

It was still early when I went through and the mist was just lifting off the roads in some places.  Overhead thunderclouds threatened but did not break.  I was spared the rain at least.

Passing through the mountains in the morning, you can see some amazing sights.  Here’s some shots taken through the window:


The clouds and mist hanging low near the road.


Looking down the road ahead.



Just when you’ve had enough grey, the blue sky returns.


The final stretch takes me past the lake and its beaches,

mostly filled with  the grey-haired.

Most of the week was spent waiting for the movers to arrive.  I did more work after the movers delivered than before.  Other than building bookcases, moving boxes from room to room, and assembling beds, I essentially was a chauffeur (my parents’ car was in the repair shop).  It was fun to help out, but I was anxious to get back to my own “home” wherever that was.  While in Penticton though, I was able to meet many of my father’s old friends (Penticton is his home town), give an informal pool-side poetry reading, and sample some Royal Anne cherries (they’re golden and delicious!).

Upon my return, I set to work to buy and build my own set of bookcases.  And, happy to report, I am tonight finally finished unpacking all 24 boxes of books, shelving them, and tidying up.  I even found a place to  drop off all that cardboard.  I’m still short furniture, but I’m at least a bit more settled now.  My bed and dresser arrived yesterday (gifts from my parents to replace the ones I had to sell in the US before leaving).

I’m hoping now that all my stuff is unpacked — well the books mainly — that I can feel at home enough to start writing again.  I dislike this juggling of job search and writing — but somehow I’ll need to find a balance.

Well, I’m exhausted and ready for sleep.  Some poetry posts are coming soon.

July 11, 2006

Pictures of PoCo

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:36 am

If you’re a local, you call Port Coquitlam – “PoCo” — weird but catchy.

Here’s some pictures from my neighborhood — it’s on the edge of Vancouver and quite scenic, but a long drive from anything exciting.

View from my front door:

View from my front door

View of the river:

View of the river

The intimacy of standing posts

A certain intimacy of standing posts

Looking back towards the road home
Evening sky over the freeway

Neil’s Adventures Heading North (recap borrowed from a recent letter to a friend)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:24 am

Day #1
I started out from Riverside on Friday after selling or giving away everything that wouldn’t fit in my car. I had spent two days carefully packing the car to fit the absolute most I could in without blocking my rearview mirror. I left Riverside at noon and drove to Los Angeles where I spent the evening hanging out with a group of friends for the last time. I crashed at my lawyer-friend’s place, had a good breakfast in the morning, discussed a few more details about a legal matter, then bid farewell for now (I’ll probably be back in September to visit).

Day #2
I spent the day driving up to Oakland where I had arranged to stay with Stephen (a friend from Kundiman) who had graciously offered his house as a stopping point. When I arrived, Stephen asked if I had a suit available — evidently one of his friends was moving away that same weekend and wanted to have her last night be a bit of a mock prom. So I dug out my suit, a clean white dress shirt, and my good shoes. I realized however that my ties were buried at the bottom of my packed car. I hadn’t expected to be dressing up for my trip — Stephen lent my a tie, which worked well enough with the suit. Before we all suited up, he swung by to pick up another friend in town and the three of us went to his office to pick up his uniform. When we got back to Stephen’s place, we got ready for the night. Stephen in his Coast Guard uniform, his friend in a borrowed tux (sans bow tie), and me in a dark suit. It looked like we were about to take over a small country — etiher by military force (Stephen), by wealth (his friend in the tux), or by the mafia (me with sunglasses). The night consisted mainly of going to In&Out (famous California burger chain) then heading to a local bar (which was odd since most of us weren’t drinking). In both cases we ended up with rather miraculous parking spots immediately in front of the destinations (in San Francisco, this does not happen — especially twice in the same night). All told, it was fun to meet new people, but I was pretty worn out and by 10:30 pm was ready to sleep.

Day #3
I left Oakland on Sunday morning and drove up the I-5 freeway, expecting to arrive at Yreka by late that afternoon. Instead I started having car trouble going through all the mountain passes. Evidently I had chosen the worse route for a 4-cylinder engined vehicle packed to the brim. The car power started fluctuating and when the warning lights starting flashing and the radio began stuttering, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I managed to exit at a small resort town called Lakehead and coasted into the gas station with just enough power to pull into a parking spot. Once I pulled in, the car would not restart. I ended up calling AAA and since the tow truck company was down the road, I figured it would be quick. It wasn’t. I waited 2.5 hours before the guy (his name was Bobby) came and jumped the car. He said the battery contacts were corroded, but that there might be something else wrong as well. I took his advice and drove over to a convenience store to buy some things to clean the battery. The car was fine for 15 minutes and then the warning lights started flashing again. But by this time Bobby had already left. I drove over to his shop and parked. I called AAA again and they said he would be gone for at least 4 hours. They sent another tow truck along and this one tested the battery and confirmed what I hoped wasn’t the case — the alternator was dead.

Now I was stranded in a small resort town on the 4th of July weekend. I walked over to the diner next door, sat down and waited for Bobby to return (I had caught him just before he left for his next call and he had said he’d try contacting his mechanic about working on it on Monday). The waitress (her name was Angie) overheard the entire situation and felt sorry for me. Since the afternoon was pretty quiet, she spent most of her spare time on the phone trying to locate a place for me to stay and a mechanic who could do the repairs. She even bought me dinner! When it turned out that there wasn’t a single room available in the entire town, she located a sofa for me. I have rarely seen such generousity (in that respect she reminded me of my friend Chi on the East coast) — I count myself very blessed. Things could have been much worse.

She said that she had moved there about a year ago from Los Angeles and had run into all sorts of trouble dealing with the locals who took a long time to warm up to her. She had ended up living in a tent in the forest for 4 months and having to send her son back to live with her ex-husband while she tried to get a job and life together. Eventually through a lot of hard work, she was able to earn the respect and trust of the locals. And because of the respect, she was able call in a bunch of favors for me.

Day #4
Thanks to Angie’s efforts the previous day, I was able to catch a ride to Redding (the next biggest town) and buy the alternator ($140) from a shop there which had been recommended to me as having the best parts and the cheapest prices (good insider information from the locals I would have missed otherwise). My driver was RC — as redneck as you can find. A Vietnam Vet of two tours, adrenaline junkie, former deep undercover agent for the Federal government and the DEA (he used to go into prisons in deep cover), and accomplished spice gourmet. He was odd, intriguing, and a little alarming — but deep down, good-hearted in a gruff way.

When I got back, Angie had located a mobile mechanic and convinced him to install the alternator for $35 — that’s right $35. He did the repair quickly and I was on the road an hour later. I was blown away by everyone’s willingness to work with me. Angie had warned me that usually the locals love to price-gouge strangers in town — I don’t think I would have made it out without her help. She refused to take any money for the meals, accomodation, or all the assistance she rendered. She even insisted that I take some of her money to help cover the expenses — sacrificing part of what she had set aside to fix her own truck. In hindsight, I’m glad that my car broke down there.

Despite all this help and the new alternator, the rest of the drive to Vancouver, Washington (my next stop) was not without event. Going through the mountains my car began to overheat – the work of moving my heavily loaded car up and over hill after hill had used up all the engine coolant. I had to drive for a bit, pull over and let the engine cool down, then drive for a bit more. Eventually I made it to the next town and bought engine coolant.

Finally, at about 10 pm, I rolled into Vancouver, Washington and stopped at my uncle Jay’s place. I was tired and a little sick, so I didn’t do much but sleep.

Day #5
Fourth of July — I stayed with my uncle and ran a few errands during the day. I had decided early on that I wouldn’t travel on the 4th — too much traffic from all the people going to and from the fireworks displays. Fireworks were big and loud all night long — many Washington people buy their fireworks from Oregon where the limits on fireworks are much looser.

Day #6
I woke at 6:00 am and left the house at 6:30 am heading for the Canadian border. And for once, it was an uneventful trip. The customs people thanked me for preparing all my paperwork in advance and I was across in no time. I pulled into my new residence in the afternoon and began moving my things in. And then I slept.

In the future, I will hire movers rather than drive a car load of stuff across the country. Better yet, my next job will pay for the movers. Hopefully.

July 10, 2006

From Craigslist Vancouver — One funny ad from a redneck needing a BBQ

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 1:55 pm

I need a BBQ & I’m a darn good backyard wrestler

My neighbour’s no-good teenage thug sons, thought it would cool to vandalize my stationwagon with their poor spelled taunts & claims of doin things those boys are too young to do with Pammy, our loyal & very catholic filipino nanny/garden helper. Then they came over and destroyed my Broil-King with those stupid swords they’re always brandishing over the fence at when Toby, bad boy Tim & me are practicing our wrestling moves & developing our skills. Those boys in thier oversize tracksuits, all fired up on whatever they do up in that weird shack they built up in the tree, listenng to that foul-mouthed rap ‘music, are trying to break me. They know I’m a semi-pro wrestler, that I trained with Chuck Norris back when I lived Long Beach, they know I was once in “BLACKBELT” magazine; they know I am skilled & deadly adversary. But they also know that I stopped drinkin, doin marijuana and cheatin on my special-lady when Jesus came to me & said “you ain’t foolin’ nobody you drunken loser! You got an appointment with the lord!”. Since I was born again, I don’t fight teenagers anymore. But those boys are testing me, trying to make me give in to the urge to kick their buts, drink their ‘wildcat’s & show-off my manliness. But my faith is strong. I won’t give in. But if someone wants go get me a new broil king, I will train them into an elite street fighter over the summer, get them a ninja suit or Karate jumper & let them into my weapons closet to select throwing stars, whips, bamboo fighting sticks, korean battle hammers & secret weapons I will not descibe here, These are priceless weapons, a few of them were gifts form chuck, WWF stars & real ninjas. Then this person will rid my street of these pussy-boy rapper & will resume my weekly BBQs & backyard wrestling clinics.

Back from the Dead

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 1:04 pm

Rumors of my blog’s death have been greatly exaggerated – my web host was recently acquired and in the process of merging the two companies, my blog changed servers.  Some code had to change and now, thanks to the folks at Endurance (new owners of Powweb), my blog is up again.

Stay tuned for more updates and catching up.  As many of you know, I’ve moved up to Port Coquitlam, BC (just outside Vancouver) as part of the post-MFA graduation deportation package that the US government extends to unemployed Canadians.  The journey up was quite eventful — as have been the past few days.  Still no job, but at least I have a roof overhead and the beginnings of a new life here.