The Hermit Poet

January 15, 2007

Boxcar Poetry Review — Issue 6 Up

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 6:54 pm

Go check it out — new poems, reviews, interviews, and photography!

Read it here

Featuring work from new and established writers:

Arlene Ang
Aaron Anstett
Lana Hechtman Ayers
Brent Fisk
Ann Wood Fuller
Do Gentry
Jude Goodwin
Matthew Little
Marty McConnell
Heather Salus
Erin Elizabeth Smith
Florencia Varela

Michael Catherwood’s Dare ~ reviewed by Jason Kahler
Patrick Donnelly’s The Charge ~ reviewed by Tara Gorvine

Conversation Between First Book Poets: Alexander Long and Kate Northrop (Part 2/2)

Ed Heckerman

January 14, 2007

Attending the Roy Miki Book Launch

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 5:02 pm

Last night, I attended the book launch for Roy Miki’s latest book, There. It was held in downtown Vancouver at Spartacus Books, an independent bookstore located on the second floor of one of the older downtown buildings.

It was a lovely space, recently renovated — lots of books, a good open spot for the reading, and plenty of seats. Even so, the room was packed. Roy Miki is one of the better known poets and Asian Canadian poets in Canada. His work is accessible and yet inventive, clear and precise — a certain economy and facility which coupled with his easy-going personality, made for a very enjoyable reading. New Star Press was represented by its editor and one of the associate editors — both nice people who I chatted with afterward when the sushi and gyoza were being distributed.

Roy’s approach to the reading reminded me of something we often forget — the need to engage the audience and let them in on a few pertinent secrets. Sharing something about the poem or the experience which lead to it without ruining the poem or boring the audience is a difficult thing to master. I felt that Roy found that balance — revealing just enough to intrigue, but not enough to spoil.

Each revelation, often accompanied with a little humor, provided an insight into the workings of his creative mind — no deep philosphical or political ramblings, no needlessly complex explications of obscure references, but rather short and simple glimpses at what was encountered or how the poem was entered into.

I should also say that the book launch was a fairly star-studded event. Fred Wah was present and helped with the setup of the sound. I’m pretty certain Gary Geddes was also there. A number of other well-published poets whose pictures I’ve seen on various Canadian literature and poetry sites (UBC and SFU faculty pages, League of Canadian Poets, and the like) were also there — but being relatively ignorant of Canadian literature, I can’t really offer any names at this time. After the reading, I also had the chance to meet Todd Wong who coordinates the Gung Haggis Fat Choy New Year’s event — Vancouver’s only celebration of both Chinese New Year’s and Scottish Robbie Burn’s Day.

One of the things that Roy Miki said during the reading really struck me. About the middle of his reading, he paused and said that looking over the audience he realized that over his many years of writing that he’s come to know and work with many of the poets in the Canadian poetry scene, most of whom were in the room. As I looked out over the same crowd, I realized I recognized none of them (except Fred Wah who I had exchanged emails with 8 years ago). I suddenly felt very much outside of that community. Not so much the prodigal son come home, as much as an unknown illegitimate son appearing unannounced at the door step.

“Citizenship” becomes a complicated thing sometimes — on a night, like last night, surrounded by poets whose names I should know, I find myself wondering where is my home exactly? At this point, it seems like I am more American than Canadian in many people’s eyes.

January 11, 2007

More Poems Up — Pleasant Surprise from MiPo

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 8:15 pm

To be honest, I’d thought these poems had been lost since it had been a while since I’d submitted then.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find an email in my mailbox letting me know that the new issue of MiPOesias was up — and that my poems were in the issue.

Check them out here — poems up include:  Ghost Passport, In Hsin Chu, The Art of Forgetting, and All the Names of Children and Homes We May Never Know.

Read the entire issue here.

2006 Best of the Net Anthology (Update)

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 5:09 pm

You can now read the poems and stories selected for the 2006 Best of the Net Anthology, as well as see the list of finalists. Visit the site at Sundress Press here.

As I noted in an earlier post, two poems from Boxcar Poetry Review made it into the anthology (congrats to Patrick Rosal and Stephen Powers). If you visit the finalists page, you’ll see that another two poems from BPR were finalists (kudos to Patricia Bostian and Rob Baum). An impressive showing from our poets and from BPR.

In any case, check out the anthology and read the work — it’s more than enough proof that online journals are publishing some of the most interesting and compelling reading out there.

January 10, 2007

Why We Write – Lessons Learned from Hikmet

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:37 pm

Sometimes we need to be reminded why we write.  I like going back to this passage from Neruda’s Memoirs where he relates the account that Nazim Hikmet shared with him:

“Accused of attempting to incite the Turkish navy into rebellion, Nazim was condemned to the punishments of hell. The trial was held on a warship. He told me he was forced to walk on the ship’s bridge until he was too weak to stay on his feet, then they stuck him into a section of the latrines where the excrement rose half a meter above the floor. My brother poet felt his strength failing him. The stench made him reel. Then the thought struck him: my tormentors are keeping an eye on me, they want to see me drop, they want to watch me suffer. His strength came back with pride. He began to sing, low at first, then louder, and finally at the top of his lungs. He sang all the songs, all the love songs he could remember, his own poems, the ballads of the peasants, the people’s battle hymns. He sang everything he knew. And so vanquished the filth and his torturers.”

Neruda, Pablo. Memoirs, trans. Hardie St. Martin (New York: Penguin, 1978), pp. 195-96

January 8, 2007

Boxcar Poetry Review News: 2 Poems in the Best of the Net

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 7:00 pm

Also just in earlier today, great news for two of our poets: Stephen Powers and Patrick Rosal, both of whom had their poems selected for publication in Sundress Press’ Best of the Net 2006 anthology.

Considering that Boxcar Poetry Review only had two issues within the eligible window and that those were the first two issues of the journal, I’d have to say this is a major accomplishment for this journal as well.

You can go back and re-read these poems by the following the links below:

I’m proud of our poets and their willingness to send work to a fledging journal. I’m proud as well that Boxcar Poetry Review has been part of this process of drawing attention to strong and dynamic writing. I hope that as time goes on, more and more of our poets will receive the recognition they deserve.

In the Mail: GRE Lit Score

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 6:48 pm

Well, evidently it’s possible for even a computer geek to score well on the GRE Literature — my score arrived today and was significantly better than expected. It’s actually respectable. You might even think that I had an undergraduate degree in English Literature — and did reasonably well.

I have no complaints — very grateful indeed. Hopefully it will have a positive influence on my PhD applications — although out of my schools, only USC and University of Denver actually care about the score.

One less thing to worry about. What’d like to see next is a nice letter from one of the programs. We can always hope, right?

January 4, 2007

A Useful Online Tool for Writers – Submission Tracker

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 2:34 am

I’ve been thinking again that it would be really useful to have an effective and portable way of tracking my poetry submissions. Up until now I’ve been using a private blog to track my submissions. It has some advantages, but also a number of limitations.

I like the open structure of a blog — I use a separate blog entry for each poem and then can simply note in the entry the journals it has been submitted to and when, as well as the responses. Since it isn’t a traditional database or spreadsheet, I’m not limited by length restrictions. On the other hand, there is a fair amount of duplication of effort — and I only include names and dates. A more robust database where the journals have their own information readily available would be nice.

Enter the Writer’s Database — a free online service available at Luminary Publishing Services. It’s an online database which is fully customizable by you the writer.

Now, it’s clear that this was intended primarily for fiction writers, but it can also serve the needs of a poet nicely. It also requires some ramp up time because each new market must be created as a new entry in the database. However, once a market has a record, you don’t need to enter that information again. Furthermore, it allows you to enter both the online and physical addresses, as well as any additional notes you wish (eg. the editor prefers long poems). Likewise individual submissions can be annotated.

It’s an interesting and seemingly effective database — I’ll play with it more in the upcoming weeks and report back on how I find it in practice.

January 3, 2007

The New Year Marks the Return of the Hermit

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

Or more precisely, the hermit’s return to blogging. I’m still out hermit-like on the edge of the city, but at least I’m back from the Okanogan Valley and settling into a routine again.

I spent New Year’s Eve with poet friends in Vancouver and had a wonderful time eating, chatting, and getting to know more poets and artists in the community. Jim Bolt and his wife Helena were up from Los Angeles — old friends of mine from the L.A. poetry scene — and it was good to see them at the party and to hear Jim read again.

Yesterday I met up with Jim and Helena and we toured the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia as well — something I loved doing as a kid and which both of them seemed to really enjoy. It’s one of the better kept secrets of Vancouver, but definitely worth a visit.

Today was spent catching up on reading and responding to submissions for Boxcar Poetry Review. I’ve handled almost all of the rejections so far and look forward to tomorrow’s task of making final decisions on the Yeses and Maybes. I’m much happier when I get a chance to send out some good news.

Today is also the day when my GRE Literature score becomes available. I’m not that gung ho about checking on it though and will just sit tight till the official letter comes. No need to fork out money to get the score over the phone.

As for resolutions, I haven’t made many. Obviously any resolution to “stop procrastinating” and “blog daily” have already fallen by the wayside. Some things can’t be resolutions because they depend on factors outside of myself (eg. getting my book published, getting into a PhD program, finding full-time teaching work). In such cases, I can resolve to do my best to prepare and apply, but someone else still has to make the critical decision.

So this year my resolutions are simple and a bit general:

  1. Write more often
  2. Be more honest with myself and live accordingly
  3. Make more friends and include more people
  4. Take more risks and live a fuller life

As the editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, I have another set of goals for 2007:

  1. Put our first ad in P&W
  2. Launch the first annual Boxcar Poetry Contest (summer 2007).
  3. Release our first print anthology by the end of April
  4. More as yet unnamed surprises
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