Oct 29, 2015

NUVO feature on Adrian Matejka


The All-Encompassing Poetry of Adrian Matejka 

From Rap poetics and Jack Johnson to the Indy skyline

So I was driving to work a few weeks ago and WFYI’s public affairs program No Limits was on the radio. But the topic being discussed this time around was, let’s just say, more poetry than public affairs.

The author being interviewed was Adrian Matejka, born in Nuremberg, Germany, who’s spent half his life in the Hoosier state. Matejka was being interviewed because he’s the Regional Author winner of the 2015 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Author Award. A graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, he’s now the Lilly Professor / Poet-in-Residence at his alma mater. In that capacity, he teaches a course each fall in rap poetics. He can talk to you about the rap stylings of Chuck D and Rakim but he can also talk to you about the sonnet structures of Charles Baudelaire.

Matejka’s also a huge boxing fan, which certainly has something to do with his choice of subject matter for The Big Smoke, his third book of poems, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2013. It’s about the life of turn-of-the-twentieth-century heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. Matejka’s also hard at work on a graphic novel about Johnson.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I had already made up my mind to talk to Matejka. I got my chance last Tuesday when we had an hour-long conversation by phone.

NUVO: What about Jack Johnson, the boxer and the man, spoke to you? 

Matejka: What got me interested in Jack Johnson is that he’s a quintessentially America figure. He’s a self-made man. He was self-educated; his parents were slaves. He came from as nothing as you can have to become the most famous athlete in the world. Everyone knew who Jack Johnson was when he was alive. So to be able to that seems very American to me... But at the same time, he’s doing this in the face of the most intense racism imaginable. Somebody could have killed him and nobody would have blinked about it. And a lot of people wanted to kill him because here was this black man with all this money. He’s bold. He wears all these nice clothes. He’s out there traveling the world and that’s not supposed to be in Jim Crow America. So I was really interested in how someone like that, someone who was had such magnetism, who was such an outsized figure could exist in turn of the twentieth century…

NUVO: I heard you on WFYI’s No Limits a couple of weeks ago. You were talking about a new book of poems about Indianapolis. 

Matejka: Indianapolis is in my new book called Collectable Blacks... It’ll be out in April of 2017… It’s funny. I spent so much time thinking about Jack Johnson’s story. I spent so much time thinking about how to craft it and how to make a contemporary narrative out of it that when I went back and tried to write my own poems, all of a sudden, place mattered in a way that it hadn’t mattered to me. Writing about Jack Johnson and thinking about geography, the geography that he existed in, made me think of my own geography.

NUVO: I read a poem of yours entitled “& Later” after a painting by Basquiat and you have in it a great line; “Indianapolis’s three-skyscrapered smile.” Does that relate to a particular memory of yours, growing up in Indianapolis? 

Matejka: That’s in the new book. There’s a series of poems that respond to Basquiat’s paintings in the book. And yeah. I used to live in Carriage House East, way out of Mitthoeffer and 42nd street and it was a neighborhood that was severely lacking in resources. Just a busted up basketball court and that kind of thing. But when you could see the skyline, when you could Indianapolis from a distance it was just these three skyscrapers. That’s all you could see from out there. And then when we moved out to Pike Township there were like five skyscrapers that you could see from that angle. Pike was really affluent: we got to see more of it from out there. There’s no way that was intentional. It’s just kind of funny how those kind of things work out.

NUVO: What got you interested in poetry in the first place?

Matejka: Well, I wanted to be a rapper. In the mid-80s, my buddy Che and I were like this little rap group. And we’d record ourselves on these little tape decks. And we were really bad at it. So I had this idea that I wanted to work with language… And when I realized that my career as an emcee was never going to take off, I was casting about for other opportunities for self-expression. And then I got a chance to hear [poet] Yusef Komunyakaa read and that was it. Whatever he’s doing, I want to do that. And so that was kind of the beginning of it for me.

Reading: Alyce Miller & Adrian Matejka
Nov. 4, 7 p.m.
The Back Door
207 S College Ave. Bloomington

Oct 26, 2015

The Freeman has a new poetry editor: Sarah Skwire

The following is a note from Sarah Skwire:

Writerly types!
I am now going to be handling poetry submissions for the good folks at the Freeman. That means you know the poetry editor! Send me good stuff--liberty related or not. I like formal verse and free verse. I like elegant and exciting use of language.
The things I want to read do what e.e.cummings said here:
"At least my theory of technique, if I have one, is very far from original; nor is it complicated. I can express it in fifteen words, by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer. of burlesk, viz., 'Would you hit a woman with a child?-No, I'd hit her with a brick.' Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement."
Accepted poems get $50, publication online, and possible inclusion in the print quarterly. If you're included in the print version, we'll send you a copy of the issue in which your poem appears.
Submissions should go to: poetry@fee.org
Full submission guidelines are available here. Ignore them at your peril:

Oct 22, 2015

4th Friday Spoken Word event rescheduled to Oct. 30

The following event has been moved back from Friday, Oct. 23, to Friday, Oct. 30, according to host Gregg DeBoor.

7 p.m.-10 p.m. 4th Friday Spoken Word and Open Mic at Coal Yard Coffee, 5547 Bonna Ave. Featured poets include Dante Fratturo, Helen Townsend, and Lisa Devon. Free. Host: Gregory DeBoor. Info: (317) 777-1161. This is the last poetry program before the coffeeshop is closed for construction.

Oct 21, 2015

Venue changes

The Lawrence Art Center, home of the Poets Laureate of Lawrence readings, has moved to 8910 Otis Avenue in the former Fort Benjamin Harrison complex. 

Coal Yard Coffee, home of monthly poetry readings hosted by Greggory DeBoor, will close for construction after its last event Friday, Oct. 30. According to DeBoor, the shop will move farther south at the Ice House complex, 400 block of South Ritter Avenue. According to a barista at the shop, no decision on moving has been made.

A new poetry venue has open at the Garfield Eatery and Coffee, 2627 Shelby St. Greggory DeBoor is hosting two poetry events on the first and third Fridays of the month. Besides featured readers and an open mic, a poetry slam for cash prizes will be offered. Non-poet performers (such as musicians and comedians) will also share the stage.  

Oct 19, 2015

Award for Helen Townsend

Helen Townsend garnered a third-place award in the Poetry Super Highway poetry contest. Read her winning poem here.

Oct 14, 2015

List of contest winners for the ISFPC's 37th Annual Fall Rendezvous

Winners’ List of 37th Annual Fall Rendezvous Poetry Contest Indiana State Federation of Poetry Clubs (ISFPC) ~ October 9 through 11, 2015.

Indiana Authors Award wrap-up


Winners are...

Four authors with Indiana ties have been honored as winners of the 2015 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award. Winners were recognized at the Indiana Authors Award Dinner on October 10 at Central Library.
Widely-acclaimed poet and Purdue University Professor of English Marianne Boruch was recognized as the National Author Award Winner. Fellow poet and Pike High School graduate Adrian Matejka was recognized as the Regional Author Award Winner. Short story novelist and Indiana University graduate Clifford Garstang was named Emerging Author Winner. A Lifetime Achievement Honor, only the second ever given to an author who has exemplified great achievement over several decades, was presented to Indianapolis’ Mari Evans, a monumental figure in poetry and education who helped shape women’s history, politics and drama.

Each Indiana Authors Award winner receives a cash prize and can select an Indiana public library to receive a $2,500 grant from The Indianapolis Public Library. Since the Award’s inception in 2009, winning authors have received a total of $157,500, and their designated libraries have received $57,500 in grants.
“The Glick Fund is proud to celebrate these talented authors,” said Marianne Glick, Director at the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Family Foundation. “We hope that the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award serves as an inspiration and encouragement for the next generation of Indiana writers.”
Indiana Authors Award nominations were submitted in the spring of 2015, and an eight-member statewide award panel selected the winners. Any published writer born in Indiana or who has lived in Indiana for at least five years was eligible.
Nominations for the 2016 Indiana Authors Award will open on February 1, 2016. To learn more, contact the Library Foundation at (317) 275-4700 or visit Indianaauthorsaward.org.

Oct 2, 2015

Friday's musings (Oct. 2,2015)

Because it is October and everything scary, I am waging a one-man campaign to expose the public misspellings of Edgar Allan Poe's name. On my Facebook page, I complained about the Ballet Theatre of Indiana and NUVO Newsweekly, both of whom used "Edgar Allen Poe" recently.


Late notices:

  • I have not come across any information about the schedule for the Rufus and Louise Reiberg Reading Series at IUPUI. Anyone have any information?
  • Also missing is the promised information of the 2016 Max Erhmann Poetry Contest, sponsored by Art Spaces, Inc. in Terre Haute. The organization's website.  promised details in September.

October 7 is Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day. This is a new one on me. Any local events planned? Or should we expect unannounced pop-up events throughout the day?


On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a poetry reading given by Adrian Matejka at the Pike Branch Library, where I became reacquainted with Kyle Craig and Rachel Sahaidachny. 
We were the only "outsiders" to attend. The rest were library staff and Adrian's family. Adrian was gracious, taking time to chat with each of us before reading his persona poems about boxer Jack Johnson,which included vintage videos.

We learned that Adrian was 1990 Pike High School grad who did not write poetry until he took a class at Indiana University (where he now teaches). He moved to Seattle but slowly made his way back to the Midwest. His mother revealed Adrian wrote a book when was 10 years old.

Given the horrible start time (3:30 p.m.) and minuscule publicity, it was a wonder that even we three showed up. But I urge you to grab the next opportunity to hear him.

Oct 1, 2015

Nikki Giovanni highlights Fall Fest 2015

From the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library website:

Nikki Giovanni Headlines Fall Fest 2015!

nikkighiresFamilies and individuals of all ages are invited for an afternoon of inspiration and cultural entertainment during "Fall Fest 2015," on Saturday, November 21 from 12 noon - 4 p.m. at Central Library in the Clowes Auditorium, 40 E. St. Clair Street.

Highlighting the event will be a lecture by world renowned poet, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni (2:10 p.m.). In addition to having her works appear on The New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists, Giovanni has been awarded an unprecedented seven NAACP Image Awards, nominated for a Grammy and been a finalist for the National Book Award. She is currently a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University. Booksignings (3:30 p.m.) will follow the event. Books will be provided by Donna Stokes-Lucas.

The afternoon also will feature the winners of the teen Slammin’ Rhymes Challenge X who will be presented their awards by Nikki Giovanni (2:55 p.m.), as well as performances by North Star Capoeira, a martial art that combines acrobatics and dance with music (12:10 p.m.); the SITEAW Basket Balancing Race, a fun and educational sport that stems from African culture (12:35 p.m.); Indy Air Bears, an electrifying competitive jump rope team (1 p.m.); Krash Krew, an inspirational and edgy dance group (1:25 p.m.); and inspired poetry readings by the Brave Youth Society (1:55 p.m.).

"Fall Fest 2015" is presented by The Indianapolis Public Library's African-American History Committee and is made possible by the Donna D. Talley Story Theatre Fund, the Dr. Michael R. Twyman Endowment Fund, and Friends of the Library through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. Call 275-4099 for more information about this free Library event.