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Adrian Matejka Discusses Poetry In Paterno Library Reading

Adrian Matejka, a prolific poet who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for his book, “The Big Smoke,” held a free public reading on Thursday night in Paterno Library. The reading capped off Matejka’s week of poetry workshops with some of Penn State’s English students.

Matejka was born in Germany as part of a military family. He and his family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Matejka later graduated from Indiana University Bloomington and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in creative writing. Matejka currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, where he works as an editor for Poetry Magazine.

According to Matejka, listening to music while writing is “essential” for his creative process. One of his favorite albums is funk-rock band Funkadelic’s 1971 release, “Maggot Brain.”

“Music is a huge inspiration for me when I’m writing,” he said.

Matejka shared that he wasn’t able to listen to music while working on his most recent book and graphic novel, “Last On His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century,” explaining that it distracted him from the artwork of his collaborator, Youssef Daoudi.

Matejka shared poems from his works at the event, including selections from “Somebody Else Sold the World” and “The Big Smoke.” Matejka also shared a sneak peek of his newest book, “Last On His Feet,” which was released in February.

Matejka wrote “Somebody Else Sold the World” during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Many of its poems reflect on the drastic changes around the world during the era.

“The Big Smoke” and “Somebody Else Sold the World,” meanwhile, focus on Jack Johnson, an American boxer who became the first Black heavyweight boxing champion in 1908. “Last On His Feet” depicts Johnson’s match in 1910 against James Jeffries, a white heavyweight champion.

“We wanted to make an artistic tribute to him,” Matejka said.

More information about Matejka’s works is available on his website. To learn more about future creative writing events at Penn State, visit the program’s website.

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About the Author

Gracie Mullan

Gracie is a junior from Delaware County, Pa, studying telecommunications with a minor in English. In her free time, Gracie likes to read, write, and drink coffee. Get in touch with Gracie on her Instagram @gracie.mullan and for more formal inquiries [email protected]

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