The Hermit Poet

October 27, 2006

The Lost Country of Sight – In Search of a Home

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 4:22 pm

I sent out another batch of manuscripts to three more book contests.  I’ve been editing and revising as I go, tightening up the writing and trying to raise the overall force of the manuscript up another notch.

This newest version of the manuscript (with changes to 6 poems) is on its way as I write.  Today’s targets were:

  • Benjamin Saltman Poetry Prize, Red Hen Press
  • Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, CSU Fresno
  • Elixir Press Prize, Elixir Press

I have another three to try in November:

  • Dorset Prize / Tupelo Press (of course, everyone else is after this one)
  • New Issues Poetry Prize / New Issues Press
  • WordTech Communications (not a contest, but November is their reading period — lots of imprints here)

Several contests I skipped because I couldn’t meet their residency requirement (must be a US citizen or resident) or length requirement (must be 60+ pages — I’m at 57 pages and holding).  It’s not a bad thing to have to skip a few — I don’t really have the funds to try for everything.

October 25, 2006

Interesting Interview with Galway Kinnell and Philip Levine

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:33 am

I stumbled across this interview the other day and really enjoyed what both Kinnell and Levine had to say about the early parts of their career.  Fascinating read — enjoy!

October 24, 2006

In the Mail Today…

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 5:10 pm
  1. The payment cheque from Crab Orchard Review for my poem, “Prodigal” forthcoming in the new issue (is it out in stores yet?)
  2. A very nice rejection from Iron Horse Literary Review requesting more work.

While I did end up waiting quite some time for Iron Horse Literary Review to get back to me, it was good to hear that my poems were so close to being taken.  I’ll definitely send something their way again.

Pictures from Saturday’s VACA Fundraising Event

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:15 am

Here’s a link to some of the photos taken at the VACA Fundraising Event on Saturday (Courtesy of Richard Weiner).

View them here.

Post Reading Report

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:13 am

Well, despite an embarrassingly tardy arrival at last night’s reading (I arrived an hour late due to traffic and my own misreading of the emailed time), the North Vancouver Teacher Librarian Association generously allowed to me read at the close of the event.

The reading was held in the gallery portion of the Leo Marshall Curriculum Hall — room filled with artwork and a sense of space. The room’s acoustics were perhaps the best I’ve experienced for a while and I felt more comfortable reading there then almost anywhere I’ve read before. Regrettably I missed the poems read before my arrival by Bonnie Nish, Fran Bourassa, and Daniela Elza. I heard that they were each outstanding and look forward to an opportunity to hear more from them.

After the reading, I went out with Bonnie, Fran, and Daniela to a local pub for wings and conversation while we waited for traffic to die down. I’d forgotten how nice it is to sit down with other people and talk seriously about poetry. Living out in Port Coquitlam, I feel quite isolated from any sort of literary scene. I miss as well the comraderie and intellectual stimulation that comes when you’re in a writing program of any sort. To a certain extent, I think we were all feeling somewhat starved for this type of conversation and ended up talking for another 2.5 hours.

I’m looking forward already to the next reading.

October 23, 2006

Alternatives to the Iowa Workshop Model

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 12:35 pm
I’m doing some research on different ways to teach creative writing and was wondering if anyone was familiar with alternative workshop models — ie. other than the traditional (aka Iowa) model?
Here’s the Wikipedia description of the Iowa model:
“For each two-hour class, a small number of students will have submitted material beforehand to be read and critiqued by their peers. The class itself consists of a round-table discussion during which the class and the instructor offer impressions, observations, and analysis about each piece. The specifics of how the class is conducted vary somewhat from teacher to teacher, and between Poetry and Fiction workshops. The ideal result of the process is not only that the author come away with insights into the strength and weaknesses of their own work, but that the class as a whole derives some insight, whether general or specific, about the process of writing.”
For alternative models, please list advantages and disadvantages as well as other considerations/restrictions.

Hindsight and Foreshadow

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 12:28 pm

Whether it’s a matter of being too busy or too lazy (or some combination of both), I’ve been absent from my blog too long.  I apologize to those who have been checking frequently to see if I’ve posted anything new.

What’s been going on?

Featured Readings

  1. I read at the downtown Vancouver Chapters bookstore to a small but enthusiastic crowd.  Despite low numbers, I did sell a few chapbooks and was overjoyed to see one of my good poet friends who I first met in Los Angeles.  She had moved back to Canada a number of years ago, but we have stayed in touch with the occasional email.  I actually owe her a great deal — she was one of the first poets I met there and helped introduce me to the world of open mic poetry in Los Angeles.
  2. I read as one of the featured poets for the Word on the Street Festival in the Poets’ Corner.  Great turnout and some wonderful poets.  I was quite happy to be a part of that event.  I also ran into a few poets I had corresponded with earlier and was able to make their acquaintance in person.
  3. I also was a featured poet at the first fundraising event for VACA (Vancouver Artists Collective Association).  It was a great line up of singer-songwriters and bands.  I was one of two poets there and was well-received.  I sold a couple of chapbooks there and ate some fantastic appetizers provided by the Century House restaurant.  The space was painted in a rich burgundy and had a great sound.  I wouldn’t mind reading there again.
  4. Tonight I’ll be reading for the North Vancouver Teacher Librarian Association as part of their International School Library Day.  This one’s a paid gig — a nice change.  More on this after I get back.


  1. San Francisco.  I went to San Fran at the end of September for the final settlement negotiations for a legal matter related to my old career as a computer programmer.  The negotiations went wonderfully well.  We were blessed with a very skilled and articulate mediator who understood the respective sides and worked for a just and appropriate settlement.  While I can’t say much about the process, I can say that we were very satisfied with the outcome.  I did have time in the evenings to walk around the city and was quite taken by it all.  Some day I’d like to return and live there.
  2. Penticton. Around the Canadian Thanksgiving break, I spent about a week with my parents to help out around the house.  It was good to be around them — I’ve been away from Canada for so long that it feels strange to have the luxury of time to spend.  My father has many childhood friends in the area who are very musically inclined and it was a treat to hear some of them sing and perform.

Acceptances / Rejections / Contests / Awards

No real news on acceptances.  I have a number of things out right now, but not as much as usual.  I should put more in the mail soon.
The last few weeks have brought in a new batch of rejections, although it has slowed somewhat since my move to Canada.  Most recently Lyric and Quarterly West have said no.
My poem “Kundiman” was an Honourable Mention in the Summer Dream Contest for Pandora’s Collective.

I’ve sent out updated copies of The Lost Country of Sight (book manuscript #1) to various book contests.  I have some more to target this week.  I’m also working on a longer sequence of poems (or maybe it’s a long poem?) to submit to the CBC Literary Awards.  This sequence will be a part of Letters to the Unknown Wife (book manuscript #3).  Progress on Babbage’s Dream (book manuscript #2) is slow, but I hope to refocus in November and get back on target.
What’s Ahead?

  1. I’m finishing up work on my preparations for the courses I’ll be offering, including a presentation on How to Publish Poetry in the US Market.
  2. I’m gathering information to put together a presentation on Alternatives to the Iowa Workshop Model.  This topic seems to be of interest to the local creative writing instructors and programs — and certainly is of interest to myself.
  3. No AWP in 2007.  Can’t make it to Atlanta because I’ll be teaching on the Thursday evening that week.  The year after though will be a big one for Boxcar Poetry Review.  I plan on being there and having a table.  Hopefully my review and interview editors will be able to make it as well.
  4. PhD applications and GRE tests.  I’m definitely applying for PhD programs for 2007.  Unfortunately my GRE scores have already expired, so I’ll be retaking them in the next few weeks.  I’ll be taking the GRE Literature at the beginning of December as well.  While I’m confident about the GRE, I’m more than a bit nervous about the GRE Literature — it’s notoriously tough and difficult to prepare for.  If I had an undergraduate degree in English or Comp Lit, I might feel a bit more confident — but my Computer Science degree offers no such consolation.  So I’ve got a fair bit of reading and review to do before then.

More to come.