While some spent the start of the COVID-19 pandemic cooking or binging TV shows, poet Adrian Matejka spent his lockdown writing his recent book ‘Someone Else Sold The World’, estimating he wrote 95% of the book in the first months of the pandemic.
“At first, when it looked like we were going to be home for a few weeks…we [Matejka and his wife] spent these two weeks working hard,” Matejka said. “Then it became clear that it wasn’t a fun thing, it was real, and people were dying and we had to rethink everything.”
Matejka will talk about her book at the 2022-2023 Efroymson Creative Writing Reading Series, which kicks off on Thursday and browse April 20. Hosted by the Department of English and Creative Writing, the series “attracts prestigious, award-winning fiction writers, poets and non-fiction writers who perform, engage and educate on a myriad of subjects and traditions.”
The series kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at the Hokin Gallery at 623 S. Wabash, Room 109 with Matejka, editor-in-chief of Poetry Magazine, as guest speaker.
Born in Nuremberg, Germany to a military family, Matejka grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Indiana University Bloomington and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
With an array of books to his credit, Matejka is recognized as a finalist for the 2014 award. Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and 2013 National Book Award for “The Big Smoke.”
The collection of poems published in May 2013 explores the legacy of American boxer Jack Johnson. Johnson was the child of emancipated slaves and fought violent Jim Crow segregation, overcoming it by challenging white boxers and white America to become the first African-American world heavyweight champion.
Her latest collection of poems titled “Somebody Else Sold the World” was a finalist for the 2022 Rilke Prize, and Matejka is currently awaiting the release of her first graphic novel “Last On His Feet”, which will be released in 2023.
It will not be the writer’s first visit to Colombia. Matejka said he was on campus about eight years ago when he read with Matthew Shenoda, the former dean of academic diversity, equity and inclusion.
“[Shenoda] and I did an event together, and it was a real joy,” Matejka said. “I was able to hang out with the creative writing students and was so impressed with the community of writers and artists on campus… so I was really excited to come back and do something again.
Matejka said at the event he will read an excerpt from his recent book “Someone Else Sold The World” and then discuss his new role. as the editor of Poetry Magazine.
According to the Matejka website, “Somebody Else Sold the World,” released in July 2021, “uses past and future touchstones like pop songs, love notes and imaginary gossip” to focus about how we exist in an “uncontrollable world”.
“Poet Pablo Neruda said ‘a good poet can write a good poem about anything’, and I try to embrace that idea,” Matejka said. “I try to embrace the idea that if we look closely enough, there’s a poem out there waiting for us to find it.”
Ankita Sadarjoshi, an MFA student in the creative writing program, will introduce Matejka at the event.
Sadarjoshi said that before the start of the fall 2022 semester, the English and creative writing department sent an email announcing that Matejka would be college reading.
When she received the email, Sadarjoshi said she became familiar with Matejka after her work was assigned in her Open Genre Workshop class.
“I was like, no, no, no, the way I have to do this,” Sadarjoshi said. “As please let me jump on this train.”
Sadarjoshi said while reading “The Big Smoke”, Matejka’s 2013 poetry collection, she felt like she was watching a movie on the pages.
“[With] 30 pages remaining of the entire manuscript, I realized I felt like I had read Jack Johnson and not Adrian Matejka,” Sadarjoshi said. “That’s how well Adrian, in my opinion, has mastered the use of recovery in terms of first-person narrative in terms of story.”
Sadarjoshi said she was intrigued to ask Matejka at the event if it was difficult to surrender to such a complicated narrative when writing “The Big Smoke”.
“Because the text has such a mix of love and violence, innocence and dirt,” Sadarjoshi said. “If I had a moment to poke his head it would be to ask him ‘how do you take care of yourself as a writer when you embark on such a complicated project?'”