Neil Aitken is the multiple award-winning author of two books of poetry as well as a chapbook. His first book, The Lost Country of Sight, won the 2007 Philip Levine Prize, and was finalist or semi-finalist for several other contests. His second book, Babbage’s Dream, was a semi-finalist for the Anthony Hecht Prize. Leviathan, his poetry chapbook, was awarded the 2017 Elgin Prize for a science fiction poetry chapbook by the SFPA. His poems have appeared in literary journals, in anthologies, on buses, and even in an international high concept fashion magazine. Find a complete list of publications here
Over the years, Neil has worked with several extremely talented contemporary composers, including Juhi Bansal, Ivor Warren Francis, Daniel Gall, Jordan Nelson, Jeffrey Parola, Brandon Scott Rumsey, Zhao Zixiang, and Zhou Tian. In most cases, these composers have set existing poems and created arrangements in the style of contemporary classical / new music. These pieces have been performed nationally and internationally, earning high praise and numerous awards. Neil is as registered member of ASCAP. His most recent project is a collaboration with Juhi Bansal is The Enchantress of Number, a short 30 minute opera based on the life of Ada Lovelace. A list of his musical collaborations can be found here
In collaboration with Chinese poet and translator Ming Di, Neil has been involved with various small and large translation projects to make the work of contemporary Chinese poets available to English speaking audiences. His translations and co-translations appear in New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (1990-2012) and The Book of Cranes: Selected Poems of Zang Di (1984-2014). He also helped translate Ming Di’s River Merchant’s Wife and is a contributing editor for the international bilingual journal of translation, Poetry East West.
“His poems are doubled-forests, like Magritte or early Taoist landscape paintings; you journey outside in one direction admiring the foliage, the arrangements of shadow and landscape, then suddenly, you fall inside into voracious vortices of light, fire, voice, and wisdom—the kind that shimmer behind the words. His breadth is vast and his depth is a tremulous chakra opening, burning quietly, even deliciously in your heart. A rare and perhaps the most gifted new writer on the loose.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera, former U.S. Poet Laureate
“Neil Aitken is a true visionary poet. His instincts for the craft of poetry, its assemblage as verbal object, its locations in time and context, are startling. He is the kind of writer who makes readers want to read and poets remember why they write. He makes poetry feel young, as though the last three thousand years have passed as a single decade and there are still libraries of wonder to be written. Mr. Aitken is filling their shelves as we watch with our hands to our mouths, our cups of tea forgotten.”
—Brendan Constantine, author of Dementia, My Darling and Calamity Joe
“Neil Aitken is a poet of consummate grace and skill. His poems are acutely observed, unerring musically, sensual and lyrical. Filled with longing and subtle epiphanies, his poetry plumbs the depths of the human heart, and hints towards the heights of the human spirit. His writing accomplishes what Wallace Stevens suggested—that, in the best poems, “description is revelation,” for each of Aitken’s poems reveals the world anew for the reader.”
—Maurya Simon, author of The Wilderness: New & Selected Poems, 1980-2016.