September 23, 2022

Adrian Matejka will be Poetry magazine’s first black editor

NEW YORK (AP) — Poetry magazine, one of the nation’s oldest and largest literary publications, will have a black editor for the first time. Adrian Matejka, educator, former Indiana State Laureate and award-winning poet, takes office May 16.

“I couldn’t be more humbled or excited to be Poetry’s new editor,” Matejka, 50, said in a statement. “The 19-year-old version of me, flipping through the pages of the magazine in wonder, never imagined that he would one day be part of such a vital literary institution.

Matejka, whose 2013 collection “The Big Smoke” was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, added that he was “committed to reinventing poetry not just as a place of poetry, but more importantly, as one who serves poets and treats writers like the gifts they are.

Matejka’s hiring was announced Tuesday by the Poetry Foundation, a Chicago-based organization that oversees poetry. The foundation was established in 2003 after Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, donated $100 million to the magazine. Poetry, founded in 1912, has published TS Eliot, Marianne Moore, John Ashbery and many other leading writers. Several poems by Matejka have been published in the magazine.

“As an accomplished poet, educator and former Poet Laureate, Adrian brings invaluable talent and experience. We look forward to her leadership and collaboration with the team to share new poets and poetry with the world,” Michelle T. Boone, who in 2021 became the foundation’s first black president, said in a statement. .

The president of Cave Canem, a leading supporter of black poets, welcomed Tuesday’s announcement. Tyehimba Jess said in a statement that “Adrian’s vision to build a literary community through excellence and diversity in publishing is a critical step forward for Poetry. Through his work on the page and his activism as Indiana’s Poet Laureate, Adrian has a record of service to history and the wholeness of humanity in every reader and poet.”

Like many literary institutions, the Poetry Foundation has responded to criticism about diversity and social awareness. Two years ago, following the murder of George Floyd, the chairman and chairman of the board resigned amid criticism over a foundation statement expressing “solidarity with the black community” and declaring his faith in ” the strength and power of poetry to uplift in times of despair.”

More than 1,500 poets, subscribers and teachers, among others, published an open letter denouncing the statement as vague and unbiased. The letter’s endorsers called on the Poetry foundation and magazine, which supports and organizes a wide range of workshops, grants and awards, to provide “a significantly greater allocation of financial resources to work that is explicitly anti-racist in nature and , in particular, to the fight to protect and enrich the lives of black people, inside and outside of Chicago.”

The foundation responded with “An Open Letter of Commitment to Our Community,” in which it acknowledged its predominantly white leadership and pledged to “better serve the poets who entrust us with their work, creative or otherwise, and serve an audience that finds solace, joy, insight, catalysts for change, and more in poetry.”

The poetry hasn’t had a permanent editor since the summer of 2020, when Don Share resigned after the magazine was criticized for publishing a poem that Share himself described as “insidious” and “particularly oppressive to Blacks, Pacific Islanders and Asians”. The foundation called his departure “ongoing changes and conversations” described in its open letter.