Adrian Matejka

Praise & Reviews for The Big Smoke

"Matejka captures what is beautifully human about Johnson. Within one body, there exists a muscled courage, a spirit as vibrant as his Flyer’s engine, as well as a flawed value system and an unapologetic misogynistic attitude. This collection does not ask the reader to assign herself as an admirer or an opponent of Johnson. Instead, it asks her to conceive that a person is a gathering of contradictions."

– Ashley Warner for The Journal

"Matejka’s project straddles that risky line between life and art, and some readers may question whether it transforms Johnson’s life sufficiently into art, but others will find this to be a powerful and accessible poetry collection."

Publisher's Weekly

"With the lean, long jab and agile step of a boxer, Adrian Matejka delivers this knockout dramatization of the larger-than-life life of heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. In dexterous interpolating voices, and in forms ranging from enveloping sonnets to prose letters and interviews, Johnson emerges as a scrappy, hard-edged hero—troubled by his own demons but determined to win the “fight of the century,” a fight that underscored the bitter realities of racism in America. These poems don’t pull no punches."

National Book Awards Committee, 2013

"The same tendency toward fantasy makes many persona poems feel like projections of the poet rather than reconsiderations of the subject. Thankfully, Matejka resists pure fantasy and artifice; treatment of Jack Johnson is complicated and passionate."

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