The Hermit Poet

January 29, 2007

Boxcar Poetry Review On the Radar

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

Heather Salus’ poem, “How We’re Moved” from the January issue of Boxcar Poetry Review makes an appearance on Jordan Davis’ Notable Poems of 2007.

Congratulations Heather!

January 28, 2007

More Poems Accepted (Really!)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:41 pm

Well, “it never rains but it pours” as they say — and Vancouver is one of the rainiest of places.

Concelebratory Shoehorn Review (CSR) has just accepted 5 of my poems for publication in May.

Look forward to reading: “Four Hours to Taipei”, “Cycling in the Dark”, “Gift”, “Kite Flying”, and “Credo”.

CSR works a little differently than most literary reviews — the editor (Maurice Oliver) contacts the poets and solicits material directly from them. While he still reserves the right to reject some or all of the pieces, this process does take some of the guesswork out. You as a poet at least know that he’s interested in your work.

This continues my rather sneaky attempt to publish my entire manuscript piecemeal before it gets accepted and published as a book…. Counting published and pending pieces, I’ve got 30/54 poems in the manuscript placed in journals. Over 50% there!

Anyway, best of luck to other poets out there — good karma all around.

Post Feature Notes

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:46 pm

I’m way behind schedule on posting about Friday’s reading at Upstart Crow Books — but I have been thinking about it quite a bit. To be honest, it was probably one of the best readings I’ve been a part of.

Russell Thornton co-featured with me and was fantastic — both in terms of poetry as well as delivery. He read first and shared 6 poems from his newest book of poems, The Human Shore. I found myself quite captivated by the voice in the poems and the way Russell read — slow, deliberate, and with care. In his presentation and his craftsmanship one finds no overly dramatic turns, no excessive showmanship, and no sloppiness. Everything has a place and purpose. The careful resonance of each word in the right place. In some respects, I found his style a bit like Philip Levine’s except driven by an attention to natural rather than urban scenes.

Before the reading began, we toyed briefly with the idea of alternating poems and doing a combined presentation. Although I ultimately decided against it, I appreciated the generousity that his offer reflected — especially given the fact that he had never heard or read my work before. In the future, I think I would like to try an interwoven reading with him — by then I hope to have a better sense of which of my pieces might suit such a presentation.

I read after Russell and decided on a set of which drew partly from the Lost Country of Sight manuscript, partly from Babbage’s Dream, and partly from the new poems in Letters to the Unknown Wife. As usual, I prepared more than I ended up using, but somehow managed to drop poems without too much distraction. I did have to read one poem from my laptop due to an oversight on my part (accidentally left the poem at home), but other than that things worked out. Good audience response — especially to “After Neruda” and some of the Babbage’s Dream poems like “assembly.”

The open mic portion was also a treat — it’s rare to attend an open mic where the readers have books and/or are well-published in their own right (any of them could have been featured that night as well). In particular, I found David Zerioth’s work quite compelling — somewhat akin to Wendell Berry, and yet uniquely his own voice.

All told, I sold several chapbooks, passed out flyers and contact information for both Boxcar Poetry Review and for the VCC courses I’m teaching in February, and made some new friends. The bookstore owners were very pleasant — we ended up chatting for a while after the reading was over.

All in all it was a delightful evening — I came away feeling more at home in Vancouver than I’ve felt before. Sometimes it seems like I’m out here alone, far from poets and people I care for — but then I’m reminded that there are poets here, and that Canadian poetry has its own charms and persuasiveness — its own voice that is emerging and growing stronger with each year.

January 24, 2007

Need a Website for a Reasonable Price?

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:04 pm

I’ve recently completed a couple of projects and now have room in my schedule for a couple more. I’m primarily interested in building portfolio / cv style websites for writers, artists, and professors. If you’re in the market for a website designer, then drop me a line and we’ll see what we can do.

Most recent project was for Alexander Long:


For more on my design philosophy and current and past projects, check out Aitken Web Design

My rates range from $200 – $400 depending on the size and complexity of the agreed upon design.

Featured Reading in North Vancouver (Friday, Jan 26)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 1:09 pm

I’ll be featured along with Russell Thorton at Upstart Crow Books in North Vancouver this Friday. Open mic follows the feature. It’s a great venue — a wonderful bookstore, the kind that always has you leaving with a lighter wallet and a few books richer. I’ll be reading new and old work, so if you’re in the area be sure to drop by. Chapbooks will be available for sale and I’ll have flyers for upcoming courses at VCC.

Friday Jan 26th, 7:30 PM
Upstart Crow Books
238 Lonsdale Avenue,
North Vancouver
(Just up the hill from the Sea-bus station and Lonsdale Quay).

See you there!

January 23, 2007

Boxcar Poetry Review – Peer Awards and Year-End Prize

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:44 pm

After careful consideration and review, I have decided to move away from my original plan of offering an open submission / fee-based poetry contest.


Simply put, as I did the math and considered the staff and administration required to run an open contest, I realized we were just not equipped to do so — or at least, not equipped to do it justice and within a reasonable time frame. Rather than take time away from making Boxcar Poetry Review a quality journal, I felt that it was more important to find a way to bring the efforts and goals of the “contest” and the journal together, and to do so in a way which was both manageable for us and respective of our readers’ and contributors’ feelings.

To be perfectly honest, the original contest was guaranteed to be a headache. By the time all the entries would have arrived, I would knee-deep in my first semester of a PhD (at least, that’s my hope). Juggling the selection of work for the regular issues with reading and winnowing contest entries, while simultaneously working on a PhD just seemed like a bad idea. Perhaps if I had really deep pockets and could afford an army of readers… but even then, there’s the problem of ensuring good poems are not being lost or misread.

And then there’s the problem of trying to pick one winner — either through an external judge or by myself. The traditional model seems unsatisfying in some respects — while I’m not a full-on Foetry groupie, I do acknowledge that there are problems with the way things often work out in a contest. Contests (like lotteries) often prey on people’s need for validation and approval, often drawing the most submissions from people whose work stands the least likelihood of being selected.

The New Model

The new contest isn’t a contest — but rather a way to reward exceptional work published in Boxcar Poetry Review. Rather than an external judge or the editor making these decisions, the power to select the best poem of each issue will be placed in the hands of the past and present contributors to the journal (ie. anyone who has published work up to and including the current issue).

Here’s how it works.


    1. Each contributor (past and present) can nominate 2 poems from the current issue as the “best of the issue” (it’s easy, just pick your two favorites). If you have a poem in the current issue and are using one of your votes for yourself, please nominate one additional poem (for a total of 3).

    2. Votes are tallied at the end of the month and the poem with the most votes is announced the first week of the following month (in this case, February).

    3. The author of the winning poem will be awarded $25 and the poem will be indicated as having won a Peer Award.

    4. The top three poems from each issue will be added to a list of finalists for the yet-to-be-named year-end prize. This means, that even if your poem is not chosen for a Peer Award, there is still a possibility that it could win the year-end prize. By the end of the year, there should be 18 finalists total, not including possible ties.


At the end of the year, the list of finalists and Peer Award winners will be handed off to a respected external judge who will choose the top three poems of the year. The judge will read and make his/her decisions through a blind reading — all personal information will be withheld. After coming to his/her decisions, the judge will notify the staff of Boxcar Poetry Review who in turn will contact the winning poets and arrange for the prize moneys to be sent to them.

1st Place – $500
2nd Place – $250
3rd Place – $100

So, if you do the math, you’ll see that we are still giving away $1000 (including the $150 for 6 Peer Awards) — but following this format, we can reward more poets and give each contributor a voice in the process.

I’m excited about this format because I feel that empowers poets, artists, and reviewers and allows them to reward and recognize the work they admire.

What do you think?

January 20, 2007

Three Poems Up at The Drunken Boat

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 11:12 pm

The new issue of The Drunken Boat is up with three of my poems:  “In the Long Dream of Exile,” “How the World Fits Together,” and “The Memory Theatre.”

Lots of Kundiman folks also in this issue: Kazim Ali, Tamiko Beyer, Oliver de la Paz, Joseph Legaspi, and Jon Pineda — also fellow blogger, Barbara Jane Reyes.

Friday Jan 26 – Featured Reading @ Upstart Crow Books (North Van)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:39 am

For those in the area, I’ll be co-featuring at Upstart Crow Books in North Vancouver this upcoming Friday (Jan 26). It’s a wonderful used bookstore (the kind that’s dangerous for writers and bibliophiles to enter with money in their pockets). Great location. Great crowd. All round good experience. And an open mic for those who wish to read as well.

I’ll be reading a mixture of work: new material, older material, things from Babbage’s Dream and things from The Lost Country of Sight. Something for everyone. Even some love poems since Valentine’s Day is coming up. Chapbooks for sale, flyers for my upcoming courses, and business cards for Boxcar Poetry Review. If you’ve just stumbled on this blog, you might also check out my website at

Also featured that evening is Russell Thornton. Here’s an interview with him and his bio page at the League of Canadian Poets. He has three books under his belt, some of which will no doubt be on sale there.

Still in the works this weekend:

  • a blog entry on my experience at the All Mixed Up launch (the third chapbook in a series of hapa literature and arts) held on this past Thursday (Jan 18)
  • a post on an alternative to the traditional poetry contest model which Boxcar Poetry Review will adopt in this new year

January 17, 2007

Still Space Available in the Courses I’m Teaching at VCC

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:39 pm

If you’re in the Vancouver area and are interested in taking a course from me (or know someone who might be interested), please let them know that there’s still space available in the following courses:

  • How to Write a Love Poem – What makes a love poem work? How can we write with passion and not come across as trite or over-the-top? We look at examples of great love poems and practice writing our own. Nuts-n-bolts practical insight on writing from the heart and mind. To woo, to regret, to love, or to forget. Love is at the root of much of what draws us to the page. (Wednesday, Feb 7, 6:30 pm-9:30 pm) ($53)
  • Radiant Imagery for Writers – This course presents 5 key techniques to make your images evocative and memorable. Whether you are a poet or a fiction writer, there is something in the course for you. (Monday Feb 19, 6:30 pm-9:30 pm) ($53)
  • How to Publish Poetry in the U.S. Market – As far as I know, no one else in Canada offers a course like this. Based on my own experiences as an editor of US literary journals and as a writer who has published throughout the US in such journals as The Drunken Boat, Crab Orchard Review, Poetry Southeast, Portland Review, RHINO, and Washington Square. The U.S. poetry market can be daunting for a Canadian poet. Given the size, complexity, and variety of journals (both online and print) situated in the U.S., it often seems like a gigantic maze where every door tends to end in a brick wall. This workshop provides key information to help Canadian writers navigate their way to a successful U.S. publication. Students will learn about the different tiers of online and print journals, which resources to consult, and basic strategies to improve their odds. (Monday, Feb 26, 6:30 pm – 9:30pm) ($53)

Visit this site to register:

Questions? Email me and I’ll try to answer them.

January 16, 2007

Gung Haggis Fat Choy – Or How I Ended Up Part Dragon

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 8:05 pm

On the recommendation of Todd Wong, local Chinese Canadian poet and mover-and-shaker, I attended the World Poetry – Gung Haggis Fat Choy Poetry Night. Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a rather unique blending of the Chinese New Year celebration and the traditional Scottish holiday commemorating the birthday of Robert Burns. In part, it’s an effort to promote cross-cultural exchange and foster better understanding and appreciation between communities (wow, that sounded like a mission statement).

In any case, it was a fun night. We heard from a local piper who also plays classical Chinese flute. The reading line up included Fiona Tinwei Lam (Scotland-born Chinese Canadian poet), the president of the local Burns Club, a local Robert W. Service enthusiast, Todd Wong (in kilt), and Araidne Sawyer (World Poetry). As fascinating as it was to hear the background, accomplishments, and poetry of Burns (in a nice Scottish brogue no less), the highlight probably was Fiona Lam’s reading. Her work is solid, well-crafted, beautifully wrought poetry. There’s moments which remind me of lyricism of Li-Young Lee’s early work — a precision there as well.

The second highlight was the dragon dance — in the spirit of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, the dragon’s body was made from a long sheet of tartan. They asked for volunteers and I happily put my hand up — after all, being part-Scottish and part-Chinese, it was a given that I should be involved, right? Well, we stepped out into the hallway and they gave us a crash course on what to do as part of the dragon’s body. Mainly follow the steps and flow of the person in front of us, and try not to trip. And, before we knew it, we were out the door weaving our way through the auditorium. The dragon head dancer was actually the president of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team — a skilled and fit guy who actually knew what he was doing. So, we had the semblance of talent — at least at the head. Todd Wong was on stage describing the tradition and the dance. I had some unexpected free press when he took a moment to mention how appropriate (given my heritage) it was that they had me as one of the dancers!
I had a great time as part of the dragon – but found that doing so certainly takes a lot out of you. It’s hard work — no wonder dragon dancers are usually martial artists!

My one regret? I forgot to bring my camera with me. Hmm.. sometimes I can be dumb about things like this. Still, it’s good fortune to be part of the dragon.

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