Neil Aitken on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Neil Aitken by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).

Biographical Information—Neil Aitken


A Canadian-born poet, translator, editor, and computer programmer, Neil Aitken grew up in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and the western parts of the United States and Canada. His first book of poetry, The Lost Country of Sight, won the 2007 Philip Levine Prize and his work has appeared in Barn Owl Review, Crab Orchard Review, diode, The Drunken Boat, Iron Horse Literary Review, Ninth Letter, Sou’wester, as well as several anthologies. His poems have been used as texts by a number of new music composers, including Juhi Bansal, Zhou Tian, Ivor Warren Francis, and Daniel Gall. The founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, Aitken also serves as a contributing editor for Poetry East-West, a new Chinese literary journal focused on bilateral translation. He is currently working on a new book of poetry, Babbage’s Dream, which explores the themes of exile, beauty, and isolation within the world of computers and computer programmers. (Photo by Dawnae Wilson)

Music by Juhi Bonsal composed to four poems from The Lost Country of Sight:

To order The Lost Country of Sight from Anhinga Press:

Also available on Amazon:

Praise for The Lost Country of Sight:

The voice in these poems is that of a sighted, awake heart discovering its home in language and its homelessness in the world. Steeped in longing, the imagination here is concrete, vivid, sensuous, and ultimately erotic, even as it perceives that meaning and beauty are evanescent. This book is a full helping from the world’s infinite fund of tears.
—Li-Young Lee

In the Long Dream of Exile

You are counting the dark exit of crows
in the rear view mirror, or from the top of an overpass
looking back into the last flames of cloud.
Your car, steel to the world of flint, rests listless
with its windows wide, the stars slipping in
and settling down for the night.

Now, what you could not leave rides in boxes
heavy with numbers and places you’ve already
turned into poems. There is nothing left
in your pockets, your clothes worn down
to this list of miles taking you out of the known earth.

Outside your open window, the dark repeats
like the wind in late fall, twisting the names
of familiar back roads into a long rope of sighs.
You could lower yourself down with such longing.
It could be a woman or a young girl, the way the light
clings to that body like a sheet of immaculate heat,
invisible to the eye, but something, you are certain,
something that must be on the verge of love.