Galveston Historical Foundation’s African American Heritage Committee welcomes the public to a special poetry reading and book signing at Old Central Cultural Center’s Jack Johnson Park on Tuesday, November 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is free with RSVP.
Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up in California and Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His first collection of poems, The Devil’s Garden, won the 2002 New York / New England Award from Alice James Books. His second collection, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and was published by Penguin Books in 2009. Mixology was a finalist for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature – Poetry. His most recent book, The Big Smoke, was awarded the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The Big Smoke was also finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He is a winner of the Julia Peterkin Award and recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lannan Foundation. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2010, Gulf Coast, Ploughshares, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner among other journals and anthologies. He teaches in the MFA program at Indiana University in Bloomington and is currently working on a new collection of poems and a graphic novel.
He will be showcasing his latest release, The Big Smoke, which involved legendary boxer, and Galveston native, Jack Johnson. The legendary 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.