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The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke

The legendary Jack Johnson (1878–1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.

  • Another Black Author

    Adrian Matejka was born in Nuremberg, Germany but grew up in California and Indiana. He is a graduate of Indiana University and the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His first collection of poems, The Devils Garden, won the 2002 Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books. His second collection, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and was published by Penguin Books in 2009. Mixology was subsequently nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He is a Cave Canem fellow and is the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2010, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Prairie Schooner among other journals and anthologies. He teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

  • Type


  • Publisher

    Penguin Books

  • Publish date

    May 28, 2013

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