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MFA alumnus named Indiana Poet Laureate

May 23, 2018

${image-alt} View larger image. Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka (Photo credit: Stephen Sproll)

For Adrian Matejka, maybe one of the most transformative memories from his days at SIU was when he attended a reading by Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), a poet he describes as “transcendent.”

“I was knocked back by her work and was inspired by the way she was in the world – open, kind and also very aware of the ways in which we need to push back against the various systems of oppression,” he said, remembering the reading at Shryock Auditorium.

Matejka is now a poet laureate himself. The Indiana Arts Commission named him Indiana Poet Laureate effective Jan. 1, 2019, an honor he will hold through Dec. 31, 2019.

Matejka earned his master of fine arts in creative writing degree from SIU in 2001, attracted to the program because of the stellar faculty. “I didn’t even take a campus visit before I moved to Carbondale,” he said. “I was (and still am) starstruck by the faculty and their accomplishments. I just knew any place with a faculty of such stature was the right place for me.”

Matejka studied with Allison Joseph, director of the program and award-winning prolific poet; Jon Tribble, poet and also managing editor of the journal “Crab Orchard Review” and series editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, published by SIU Press; and with former faculty members Rodney Jones, a Guggenheim Fellow and finalist for Illinois Poet Laureate; and Lucia Perillo, a MacArthur Fellow.

“The faculty in creative writing and English were the best part of my experience in graduate school,” he said. “They were so generous with their time and support. I wouldn’t be where I am today – and I certainly wouldn’t have been selected as Indiana Poet Laureate – without all they taught me during and after my time at SIUC.”

Matejka taught at Carbondale’s sister campus in Edwardsville, where he was the 2010 William and Margaret Going Award Endowed Professor.

Matejka currently teaches in the MFA program at Indiana University in Bloomington. Born in Nuremberg, Germany, he grew up in California and Indiana, graduating from Pike High School in Indianapolis and earning his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington.

“There is no way I would have been able to achieve the things I have in writing or in life in general had I not come to SIU,” he said. “My time in Carbondale was life changing and I try to give my students here in Bloomington some of the same kinds of empathy, challenges, and support I received from my professors, cohort, and the Carbondale community. “

Matejka is the author of “The Devil’s Garden,” winner of the New York / New England Award; “Mixology,” winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and a finalist for a National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. His most recent collection, “Map to the Stars,” was published in March, 2017 by Penguin Random House. He is currently working on a new collection of poems, “Hearing Damage,” and a graphic novel.