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Neil AItken

Photo: Ayako Takamori 2016

Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, Babbage’s Dream (Sundress 2017) and The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga 2008), which won the Philip Levine Prize. His poetry chapbook, Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press 2016) was awarded an Elgin Prize for Sci Fi Poetry. He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, creator of Have Book Will Travel (a web resource for authors and reading series), and host of The Lit Fantastic, a podcast about authors and their obsessions.  He also co-directs De-Canon: A Library Projecta web resource examining and interrogating the intersections of race, literature, canon-making, education, and publishing. New YouTube projects include: Fantastic Descriptions (a deep dive into narrative description for roleplaying games) and The Hermit Poetry Series (a thrice-weekly reading of contemporary poetry). He served as the Fall 2020 Virtual Writer-in-Residence for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. He presently works as a creative writing coach and manuscript consultant. 

Neil has published poetry, essays, and translations in many literary journals and anthologies, as well as on buses, in a mathematics journal, and even as the center piece of a high concept fashion magazine. His poetry has appeared in The Adroit Journal, American Literary Review, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, I.T Magazine, Lantern Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Poetry Review, and many other literary journals. 

Neil holds a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California and an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, as well as a BS in Computer Science with Mathematics minor from Brigham Young University. He has collaborated with a number of talented music composers, including Juhi BansalBrandon Scott RumseyJeffrey ParolaZhou TianZhao Zixiang, and Daniel Gall.  He also co-wrote the narrative poem used as the voice over script for  Libangbang, an animated short by Tseng Chia-Chi.

As a Chinese-English translator, Neil has worked with poet-translator Ming Di to translate The Book of Cranes: Selected Poems of Zang Di (Vagabond 2015) as well as many of Ming Di’s own first selected poems, which were published as The River Merchant’s Wife. His co-translations of Jiang Hao, Jiang Li, Jiang Tao, Lü De’an, Lü Yue, Sun Wenbo, and Zang Di are also prominently featured in New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, 1990-2012 (Tupelo 2013). He was awarded the DJS Translation Prize in 2011 and serves as a contributing editor and board member of Poetry East West.

Of Chinese and Scottish descent, Neil was born in Vancouver, BC and grew up in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and various parts of the western United States and Canada.

Phone number:
c/o Writers' Union of Canada


Babbage's Dream. Sundress Publications, 2017
Leviathan. Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016
The Lost Country of Sight. Anhinga Press, 2008


Elgin Prize for Sci Fi Poetry for Leviathan, 2017
Philip Levine Prize for Poetry for The Lost Country of Sight, 2007
Eligible for National Public Readings Program :


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