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About this poet

Adrian Matejka was born into a military family in Nuremburg, Germany, in 1971, and he grew up in California and Indiana. He received a BA from Indiana University in 1995 and an MFA from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale in 2001.

He is the author of Map to the Stars (Penguin, 2017); The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), which won the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Mixology (Penguin, 2009), which was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series; and The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), which received the 2002 New York/New England Book Award.

Matejka’s poetry is known for its inventive, often multidisciplinary exploration of identity and cultural history. Rodney Jones writes, "Adrian Matejka plays the language like a horn, with a cool inventiveness and bravura phrasing, yet his poems are as notable for their humanity as their flourishes and riffs at the borders of expression. His singular gift is to write outside the usual habits of communication and yet to deliver again and again the inside story, the testament of a life."

In an interview with Barely South Review, he cites the poet Yusef Komunyakaa as an influence: “He was like an emcee—or maybe more appropriately, a jazz soloist. When I heard him read, I knew I wanted to write poems.”

Matejka is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, the Lannan Foundation, and United States Artists, among others. In 2018, he was appointed state poet laureate of Indiana. He currently teaches creative writing at Indiana University. He lives with his wife, the poet Stacey Lynn Brown, in Bloomington, Indiana.


Bibliography

Map to the Stars (Penguin, 2017)
The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013)
Mixology (Penguin, 2009)
The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003)

Stardate 8809.22

If there was ever a chance to go to outer space,
     it wasn’t here & it wasn’t for me, as off balance
on this distant planet as a buster getting a mouthful
     of knuckles. If there was a possibility of making it
out of this heliosphere, there never really was.
     Four eyes giggling at me like a laugh track. Black
skin, you can’t win in the space race no matter
     what Sun Ra says. Everyone except him agreeing
on these facts like a laugh track. Looking up through
     the round circumstance of a basketball hoop from
a suburb of amateur astronauts. Looking up from this
     corner of black constriction & wind knocked out
of words. This cricket-ticking suburb of fanciful
     neighbors & their distant, but unrelenting chatter.

From Map to the Stars by Adrian Matejka, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Adrian Matejka.

From Map to the Stars by Adrian Matejka, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Adrian Matejka.

Adrian Matejka

Adrian Matejka

Adrian Matejka is the author of The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), which was nominated for both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana. 

by this poet

poem

In 1981, Eris’s spacious face hadn’t been discovered
yet, my mother hadn’t taken a day off from Fort Ben
yet, & Pluto was still a planet. One of nine celestial
bodies snapped into drummed orbits around the Sun
like the orthodontic rubber bands no one in Carriage House
had. I hid my gaps

poem

When 213b finally opens in a crack of yellow linoleum, 
Garrett comes out with the left side of his afro as flat 
as the tire that used to be on his mom’s car & the stuck 
snick of the cheap door locking behind him sounds exactly 
like someone trying to light a smoke with an empty
poem

—after “Trumpet,” Jean-Michel Basquiat


the broken sprawl & crawl
of Basquiat’s paints, the thin cleft

          of villainous pigments wrapping 

each frame like the syntax
          in somebody else’s relaxed

explanation of lateness: what had

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