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Author of 'The Big Smoke' Visits UK

By Gaill Hairston

(Nov. 5, 2015) — Adrian Matejka, nationally renowned poet, will read at the University of Kentucky William T. Young Library at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Matejka’s most recent book, “The Big Smoke,” a collection of persona poems in the voice of the boxer Jack Johnson, was awarded the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the 2013 National Book Award and the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. He is a recipient of the 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, which recognizes men and women in the United States, Canada and Latin America who have demonstrated an exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or creative ability in the arts.

Persona poems are written from another person’s perspective, in the case of "The Big Smoke," the voice of Johnson (1878-1946), the first African-American heavyweight world champion. Visit here to hear Matejka read a selection from “The Big Smoke.”

Matejka’s 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. It was also a finalist for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature – Poetry. 

Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in California and Indiana. He is the Lilly Professor / Poet-in-Residence at Indiana University in Bloomington and is currently working on a new collection of poems and a graphic novel.

Matejka will be reading as part of the UK Department of English Visiting Writers Series. His visit is co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences African American and Africana Studies.

In partnership with the UK Art Museum, the Visiting Writers Series will co-sponsor a lecture by essayist, poet and painter, Wayne Koestenbaum, on Nov. 13, in White Hall Classroom Building. All events in this series are free and open to the public. For more information about the series, visit