Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka

Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka

Every so often, Adrian Matejka drives up from Bloomington to lead his “Poetry For Indy” workshops at the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Indianapolis Central Library. Matejka is associate professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington.

If you’re Indiana Poet Laureate, such monster drives come with the territory.  

But now Matejka will not have to fund these trips out of his own pocket. In fact, he will be able to expand his free poetry workshops to communities like Lafayette, Evansville, and Terre Haute.

This is the result of a $100,000 fellowship —  one from the first-ever batch of Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowships — funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Matejka is one of thirteen poets laureate of states, cities, and counties across the U.S. who are receiving a total of $1,050,000 to support their public engagement.

The money will also fund a digital archive, called INverse, for Indiana poets. It will both serve as a historical archive and a teacher’s resource in 2019-2020.

“Anybody who can write a poem will be able to share their work in the archive,” says Matejka. “So there won’t be a thing like you have to have a book.”

The online portal for said archive will go live in October, 2019.

When Matejka was looking for a space to house his “Poetry for Indy” workshops, he looked at a number of places including Tube Factory artspace and The Indiana Writers Center. But ultimately the Center for Black Life & Culture made the most sense to him.

“I love that space, man,” says Matejka. “Nichelle Hayes has been my partner in crime trying to make these things happen ...  So much of my agenda was to have poetry workshops in spaces that didn't ordinarily offer them.”

Nichelle Hayes is Special Collections Librarian at Central Library.

On Thursday, April 25, Matejka be at the Iconoclast Poetry Slam to read his work and to sit as a judge. (He’ll be judging competitors vying for a spot on the team facing off at Southern Fried Poetry Inc.)  While Matejka won’t be performing poetry by heart, it’s just possible that you might hear him read poems about the affairs of the heart.

That is to say, he might just read some poems from his forthcoming book On the B Side, which is set for release some time in 2020.

“It's a book of love poems ... sort of,” says Matejka. “I thought they were love poems; they ended up a little being more like breakup poems than love poems.”   

Also forthcoming is a graphic novel in the works based on his third collection of poems The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013) which focuses all its attention on the first heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson. He’s working in collaboration with illustrator Youssef Daoudi on a forthcoming graphic novel based on that book.

You may wonder how Matejka, whose two-year term as poet laureate will conclude at the end of 2019, finds time for everything on his plate.  But despite the time management challenges, he seems excited about the poetry workshops that the American Academy of Poetry Fellowship will facilitate.

“It makes it so much easier,” he says. “I can buy lunch for people at the workshops and do all kinds of things I wanted to be able to do. Just little things. Poetry works better with food, man. I'd  show up with donuts from Long's. It's lunchtime, not donut time.”


Writer Arts, Faith & Equity

Having lived and worked in Indy on and off since 1977, and currently living in Carmel, I've seen the city change a great deal. I love covering the arts in all its forms, and the places where the arts and broader cultural issues intersect.

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