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Wednesday, Dec. 6
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

IU professor receives international award for his third published poem collection

An IU professor has received the 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in poetry, according to an April 16 IU press release.

Adrian Matejka, an assistant professor in the Department of English at IU-Bloomington, is the only IU faculty member to win the award this year, according to the release.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship Competition was established in 1925. It recognizes those in the United States, as well as in Canada and Latin America, who have proven an exceptional creative ability in the arts, according to the release.

His award-winning collection of poetry, “The Big Smoke,” tells the story of boxing legend Jack Johnson (1878-1956), the first African American heavyweight champion.
“These recognitions are wonderful affirmations for ‘The Big Smoke’ and Jack Johnson’s story,” Matejka said in the release.

“The Big Smoke” is Matejka’s third published poetry collection. His other two works are “The Devil’s Garden” and “Mixology,” both of which have also won awards.

“The Devil’s Garden” was the 2002 winner of the New York/New England Award from Alice James Books. “Mixology” won the 2008 National Poetry Series and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

All of his books focus on different facets of race, masculinity and family, according to the release.

“Mixology” uses hip-hop-style sampling to explore the “otherness” that comes with being of a multi-racial background.

“The Devil’s Garden,” however, juxtaposes autobiography and history through Matejka’s own tri-racial identity, according to the release.

The book was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2014, won the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Prize and was on the short list for the 2013 National Book Award in poetry, according to the release.

“Even though the Guggenheim Fellowship is a career award, I imagine my inclusion with the 2014 Fellows was connected to the success of this book,” Matejka said. “So in many ways, each of those accolades points back to Johnson, as it should, since I wrote the book trying to bring his story into the contemporary dialogue of race and politics.

“It’s humbling and extraordinary at the same time. I imagine Johnson is some place right now, laughing about it all.” 

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