Written by HILLEL ITALIE – National Writer AP
NEW YORK (AP) – Poetry magazine, one of the oldest and most famous literary publications in the country, will have a black editor for the first time. Adrian Matejko, an educator, former Indiana state laureate and poet award winner, begins his new job on May 16th.
“I could not be more humiliated or excited to become the new editor of Poetry,” the 50-year-old Matejko said in a statement. “The 19-year-old version of me, who flipped through the pages of the magazine in astonishment, would never have imagined that one day it would become part of such a vital literary institution.”
Matejko, whose 2013 collection The Big Smoke was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Prize, added that he “sought to rethink poetry not only as a platform for poetics, but more importantly as a service to poets and treats writers as the gifts they are ”.
Mateika’s hiring was announced on Tuesday by the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, which oversees poetry. The fund was established in 2003 after Ruth Lilly, heiress to Eli Lilly’s pharmaceutical fortune, donated $ 100 million to the magazine. Poetry, founded in 1912, has been published by TS Eliot, Marianne Moore, John Ashbury and many other leading writers. Several poems by Matejka were published in the magazine.
“As an experienced poet, educator and former poet laureate, Adrian brings invaluable talent and experience. We look forward to his leadership and collaboration with the team to share with the world new poets and poetry, ”said Michelle T. Boone, who in 2021 became the foundation’s first black president.
Mateika, who grew up in Indianapolis, is also the author of poetry collections “The Devil’s Garden”, “Map to the Stars” and “Someone Else Has Sold the World”, as well as a future graphic novel “Last on His Feet”. In what he calls a “strange coincidence,” he is Ruth Lily’s professor of poetry at Indiana University in Bloomington.
President Cave Canem, a leading supporter of black poets, praised the announcement Tuesday. Taimba Jess said in a statement that “Adrian’s vision of building a literary community through excellence and diversity of publications is an important step forward for poetry. Through his work on the page and his activism as a laureate poet in Indiana, Adrian has a track record of serving the history and fullness of humanity of every reader and poet. ”
Like many literary institutions, the Poetry Foundation has been critical of diversity and social awareness. Two years ago, after the assassination of George Floyd, the president and chairman resigned amid criticism of the foundation’s statement, which expressed “solidarity with the Black Community” and declared faith in the “power and strength of poetry to rise in times of despair.” .
More than 1,500 poets, subscribers and teachers, among others, have published an open letter condemning the statement as vague and dispassionate. The authors of the letter called on the Poetry Foundation and the magazine, which support and organize a wide range of seminars, grants and awards, “to devote much more financial resources to work that is clearly anti-racist and, in particular, the struggle.” to protect and enrich the lives of blacks in Chicago and beyond. ”
The Foundation responded with an “Open Letter of Commitment to Our Community” in which it recognized its leadership as mostly white and promised to better serve poets who entrust us with their work, creative or otherwise, and serve an audience that finds comfort, joy, understanding, catalysts for change and much more in poetry ”.
Poetry has not had a permanent editor since the summer of 2020, when Don Cher resigned after the magazine was criticized for publishing a poem that Cher himself called “insidious” and “especially depressing to blacks, Pacific residents and Asians.” The foundation called his departure part of “ongoing changes and talks” outlined in an open letter.
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