Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Adrian Matejka  

Pen Name: 

Genre: Poetry

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1971 in Nuremberg, Germany

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Illinois Connection

Matejka is a graduate of the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He also taught at the University as the William and Margaret Going Endowed Professor for 2010-11.

Biographical and Professional Information

Adrian Matejka grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and fellowships from Cave Canem and the Lannan Foundation. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2010, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner among other journals and anthologies. He teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington and was Poet Laureate of Indiana for 2018-19.


The Devil's Garden

2002 Kinereth Gensler Award, Alice James Books


Finalist, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature, National Poetry Series, 2008

The Big Smoke

2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

Finalist, National Book Award, 2013

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, 2014

Pulitzer Prize in poetry, 2014

Other Awards

Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award,

Julia Peterkin Award,

Pushcart Prize,

Fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Bellagio Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Simon Fellowship from United States Artists.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability: Yes.

Selected Titles At Your Library

Map to the Stars
ISBN: 9780143130574. OCLC Number: 953438777

Penguin. .

A resonant new collection of poetry from Adrian Matejka, author of The Big Smoke, a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award Map to the Stars, the fourth poetry collection from National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Adrian Matejka, navigates the tensions between race, geography, and poverty in America during the Reagan Era. In the time of space shuttles and the Strategic Defense Initiative, outer space is the only place equality seems possible, even as the stars serve to both guide and obscure the earthly complexities of masculinity and migration. In Matejka's poems, hope is the link between the convoluted realities of being poor and the inspiring possibilities of transcendence and escape--whether it comes from Star Trek, the dream of being one of the first black astronauts, or Sun Ra's cosmic jazz--

ISBN: 9780143115830. OCLC Number: 276819849

Penguin Books,. .

The poems in Adrian Matejka's second collection, Mixology, shapeshift through the myriad meanings of mixing to explore and explode ideas of race, skin politics, appropriation, and cultural identity. Whether the focus of the individual poems is musical, digital, or historical, the otherness implicit in being of more than one racial background guides Matejka's work to the inevitable conclusion that all things-no matter how disparate-are parts of the whole.

The Big Smoke
ISBN: 9780143123729. OCLC Number: 820123637

Penguin. .

The legendary Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers and white America to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka's third work of poetry, follows the fighter's journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka's book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson's complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.

The Devil's Garden
ISBN: 1882295412. OCLC Number: 52030540

Alice James Books. .

Using musical allusion and metaphor, juxtaposing history and autobiography, Matejka navigates a tri-racial identity. In these poems, having too many heritages means having no heritage at all. As a result, cultural identifiersbe they afros, war paint or William Shatner take the place of identity. Vibrant narrative lyrics use image as riff, syllable as note, to improvise on a personal history severed from tradition.