Adam Aitken

Adam Aitken was born in 1960 and spent his early childhood in London,  Thailand and Malaysia. As well as numerous reviews, articles on poetry, and works of creative non-fiction, he is the author of four collections of poetry. Romeo and Juliet in Subtitles (2000) was shortlisted for the Age Poetry Book Award and the John Bray South Australian Writers Festival Award. He has been the recipient of an Asialink residency in Malaysia, an Australian Postgraduate Award and most recently an Australia Council Literature grant for new work on Cambodia. His most recent work includes a Doctorate in Creative Arts thesis on hybridity in Australian literature, and a new book of poems, Eighth Habitation (Giramondo Publishing). He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Technology, Sydney. Adam is appointed Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Hawai’i for Fall semester 2010.



Eighth Habitation




“Went up north for short holidays again last week.

And thankfully missed the floods in KL.

You have to pass Kelly’s (sic) Castle

before reaching

Clearwater Golf Sanctuary, right?”


Appeasing temple, or a Scots-Victorian Taj Mahal

built for the love of Agnes, English heiress by rumour.


Designed with “splendour in mind”

unfinished supplement to 1890s

tin-money, and rubber.

Filmset strangler figs “reclaiming civilisation”.



“While driving to Ipoh for ICT annual dinner (courtesy of zaman), we stopped

by kellie’s castle for a wee bit of look-see.”



“Not a haunted house, a haunted castle”.

Moorish. Built by Hindu stone masons.


Spanish flu killed Kellie,

decimated the master builders

& coolies too.


1926. Died

somewhere between Singapore

                                                & England

(some say Portugal).


Agnes went home to Scotland.


The surviving workers

built their avatar:

pith-helmet deity

in khaki and boots

standing between two fakirs

atop their temple

just behind the scullery.


I’m here for the “pictorial possibilities”, and like a good poem

there’s Juliet balconies

hidden tunnels and

the “doors and windows open and shut

                                                            by themselves”

light and dark.

My eighth habitation?


“Windows open and bang shut by themselves, we’ve been in there …

you can ask Joyce or Loo Hui. We spent only about 45 minutes

in there, and the clouds started to get darker and darker,

and we had to get out of there coz there’s no visibility in there

in case it got too dark. We walked quickly outside

into the open space, and I told the girls I HAD to take this shot

with the dark clouds directly on top of the castle, it’s really

a golden opportunity for a good shot that I think even the locals

find it hard to find! We got on our knees, frame a low angle,

and got these shots.”





Capitalist myth No. 357:

the workers deify The Boss

Capitalist myth No 358:

the workers poisoned his cigars.

Eccentricity that becomes the Boss,


for which the locals thank him –


            for Malaya’s first hydraulic lift,

            each room with a view,

the library of hardwood shelves,


much text that

rotted there unread.

Scott’s Waverley novels, Eliot, Dickins.



the attractions are


ghosts, hidden passages,

a class excursion

or a promo

for “Ted Adnan’s Location Portraiture Lighting Technique Workshop”

(code for tropic porn


            among the Gothic moldings

            in the equatorial boudoir

                        for heat-struck Ophelias).


Heritage? Thirty, quite useless, rooms

including indoor tennis court,



                        of graduated offence (from “Abdul 2000” to

the spouting appendage

                                    drawn from hearsay

to “Malaysia 20/20 Vision”)


In guidebook-speak: “a defaced labour of love”?


            Thanks to the haunted Celts

            the rubber boom turns to palm oil and tourism


plus a hundred or so internet plagiarism essays



                        just absent on leave,

one deregulated voice

channelled thru the living



“it’ll b a cute cute castle

wif lotsa hello! kitty stuff in there..

it shall not b spooky…

it’ll b like every kid’s dream castle… haha…”