Graduate Student Profile

Neil Aitken

Contact Information


Biographical Sketch

Neil Tangaroa Aitken is the author of The Lost Country of Sight which won the 2007 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published by Anhinga Press in 2008. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times and has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Drunken Boat, Ninth Letter, Poetry Southeast, Sou'wester,and elsewhere. In collaboration with Chinese poet-translator Ming Di, he translated The Book of Cranes by Zang Di and later, Ming Di's own first selected poems, River Merchant's Wife. He is currently co-translating an anthology of contemporary Chinese poets and recently received the DJS Translation Prize for his translation work.


Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Neil grew up in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and the western parts of the United States and Canada. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Brigham Young University, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California - Riverside, and is currently working on a Ph.D. in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.


Prior to pursuing graduate work in creative writing, Neil was a computer programmer for a multi-national games publisher. Although he no longer writes game code for companies, his love of programming and technology has recently manifested itself in his current poetry manuscript project, Babbage's Dream, which explores the themes of exile, beauty, and isolation within the world of computers and computer programmers. Poems from this manuscript have already been finding homes in fine literary journals.


When not writing poetry or designing websites, Neil serves as the editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, an online literary journal focused on publishing poetry and showcasing reviews and interviews pertaining to first books of poetry. You can visit it here.


He also serves as a contributing editor for Poetry East West, a multi-lingual Chinese literary journal which publishes contemporary Chinese poetry, English translations of contemporary Chinese poems, and international poetry translated into Chinese.


  • B.S. Computer Science, Brigham Young University, 1999
  • M.F.A. English (Creative Writing), University of California, Riverside, 2006
  • Ph.D. English (Creative Writing), University of Southern California, 2013

Employment History

  • Assistant Lecturer (Writing Program), University of Southern California, 2008 - Present


Research Specialties

  • Creative Writing, Poetry, Victorian Technology, Automata, Charles Babbage, Thinking Machines, Detectives, Artificial Intelligence, Computers in Literature, Translation, Contemporary Chinese Poetry


  • Poetry Collection
    Aitken, N. (2008). The Lost Country of Sight. pp. 78. Tallahassee, FL. Anhinga Press.

Service to the Profession

Editorships and Editorial Boards

  • Contributing Translation Editor, Poetry East West, 11/2010-  
  • Founding Editor, Boxcar Poetry Review, 02/2005-  



  • USC Dornsife Department of English
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 404
  • University Park
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354
  • Fax: (213) 741-0377