Why I Chose Adrian Matejka’s Map to the Stars for March Poetry Book Club

By

It started, as it often does, with a recommendation from a friend, in this case Gabrielle Calvocoressi. She sent me an email saying “You have to look at this book.” I would have anyway, because I’ve been a fan of Adrian Matejka’s work for a long time, and in fact, I wanted his last book, The Big Smoke, for the Poetry Book Club but couldn’t make it happen.

So I was excited when I got a PDF of Map to the Stars in my inbox, and was hooked from the first poem, “Star-Struck Blacks,” which evokes Indianapolis and the Midwestern winters I’ve recently become used to, but which ends with an allusion to a dick joke.

Before I tell you more, a quick reminder that in order to receive your copy of Map to the Stars, read along with the Poetry Book Club, and participate in our exclusive chat with Adrian Matejka, you’ll need to to subscribe by February 20!

Map to the Stars also spends a lot of time in space, or at least staring into it. Star Trek makes appearances in the Table of Contents, with poems titled “Final Frontier” and a series featuring Stardate designations, but so do Parliament and the Mothership, Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Voyager 2, and more.

There are two main backdrops for these poems—life in Indianapolis, which is marked by hunger and the lights being turned off, and life in the suburbs marked by racism and white people who can’t get away fast or far enough. From “After the Stars”:

________________Upward
mobility equals stars in every

thing: the neighbors who moved
___out into even further orbits–
Zionsville, Carmel, new fields

& streets waiting for names.
___The neighbors who couldn’t move,
stoic on porches like resilient

pieces of a constellation. One
___black sky above them all.

I’m incredibly excited to read this book more closely along with the Rumpus Poetry Book Club, and to chat with Adrian Matejka at the end of the month. Hope that you’ll join in the conversation!


Brian Spears's first collection of poetry, A Witness in Exile, is now available through Louisiana Literature Press, and at his personal website. He is the Poetry Editor for The Rumpus, and teaches poetry at Drake University. More from this author →