#AWP19 Featured Presenter Q&A with Adrian Matejka

AWP | January 2019

Event Title: A Reading by Toi Derricotte, Adrian Matejka, and Mai Der Vang, Sponsored by the Academy of American Poets
Description: Join the Academy of American Poets for an evening reading by former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets Toi Derricotte, Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka, and 2016 Walt Whitman Award winner Mai Der Vang. Executive Director Jennifer Benka will introduce the event. Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based organization promoting contemporary poets and poetry.
Participants: Toi Derricotte, Adrian Matejka, and Mai Der Vang
Location: Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Date & Time: Saturday, March 30, 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.


What are some of the conference events or bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
The bookfair is one of my favorite things at AWP. It’s a chance for me to say thanks to editors I know or have admired from a distance. It’s also a chance for me to learn about new journals and presses. Every year, my bookfair map is covered with circles, but they always include Alice James Books, APR, Boulevard, Cave Canem, Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, River Styx, and Third Man Books.

If you’ve been to an AWP Conference & Bookfair before, what is your favorite conference memory?
I’ve been attending AWP regularly for almost twenty years, so picking a favorite memory is difficult. But a few highlights for me (and I’m intentionally leaving out the wonderful panels and readings I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of):

  • Jake Adam York reading “Letter Written on a Hundred Dollar Bill” in the middle of the bookfair for a mixtape project for University of Wynwood
  • Talking with Yusef Komunyakaa in the conference lobby while my daughter fell asleep on my shoulder
  • Wandering around LA on a bright morning with Gabrielle Calvocoressi looking for breakfast before we had our panels
  • Hearing C.D. Wright melt the mic in a dive bar in Seattle
  • Terrance Hayes’s ballroom reading in Atlanta when he clowned professors who have inappropriate relationships with their students and the room got extra quiet
  • Cutting up with Lauri Conner, Oliver de la Paz, and Lyrae Van Clief Stefanon in the hotel bar in Vancouver, BC
  • Cuban food (or any food, really, since I have a meal with them every AWP) with Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble

I have so many memories of my favorite writers/people at AWP. I’m just trying to keep the list to seven.

What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
This is such a bountiful time for literature and poetry especially, so I’ll share a few new poetry collections I hope will get a little more attention: Julian Randall’s startling debut Refuse (University of Pittsburgh, 2018), Sherwin Bitsui’s beautiful new book-length poem Dissolve (Copper Canyon, 2018), and Marty McConnell’s new stunner when they say you can’t go home again, what they mean is you were never there (Southern Indiana University Press, 2018).

If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP19, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I’d like to meet James Baldwin or Emily Dickinson and I hope we could talk about music or food. I would feel like a charlatan having a conversation with two of the writers from whom I’ve borrowed the most.


Adrian MatejkaAdrian Matejka is the author of The Devil’s Garden, which won the New York/New England Award; Mixology, winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature; and The Big Smoke, awarded the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and finalist for the 2013 National Book Award, 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and 2014 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. His most recent collection is Map to the Stars. Matejka’s honors include the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, the Julia Peterkin Award, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Bellagio Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and a Simon Fellowship from United States Artists. He teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington and is Poet Laureate of Indiana. 
(Photo Credit: Stephen Sproll)

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