Tuesday, January 3, 2017

From Jack Johnson to the Stars: Charting Adrian Matejka's next moves

Adrian Matejka's newest book Map to the Stars is scheduled for release at the end of March. I really enjoyed his previous book The Big Smoke on Jack Johnson. So I'm interested in the new directions he'll go in this upcoming volume.

His publisher Penguin Books sent me an advance copy, and I've been reading the poems over the break. This volume covers a variety of moments from the poet's childhood and teenage years, many from the 1980s. Varied takes on astronomy -- from stars and solar systems to Sun Ra -- serve as the main connecting thread throughout the book.

Aah, but my quick summary here ain't doing the poems justice. His wordplay and especially his use of similes to connect reflections on the past to the stars are where the work really takes off. In one poem, a friend's front door opens "like a newly discovered planet." And then in another poem this: "The moon is still out, eyeballing the quiet street like Sun Ra did his Arkestra." References like are scattered all across the volume, you know, like stars on a clear night.

There are poems about basketball, beat boxing, Prince, Basquiat, and more. The plan, in the lead up to the book's publication, is for me to squeeze in time to write about some of the select poems or topics that I keep returning to after the initial reads.  

Adrian Matejka  

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