The year 2010 is proving to be very busy for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature Adrian Matejka—and the year is not even half way over yet.
Matejka has received the 2010 William and Margaret Going Award Endowed Professorship from SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences. He called it “an incredible honor” to be selected for the award.
“Professor (Emeritus of English Language and Literature) Eugene B. Redmond caught me up to speed on the history of the award,” he said. “Professor Going was one of the founders of SIUE and of the Department of English, so I just hope that I can live up to all that the award entails.”
Dr. William Going established an endowment to fund the professorship in honor of his wife Margaret and himself. Dr. Going began his career at SIUE in its first year of existence—1957—and taught at the Alton Residence Center. He served as the first dean of Instruction and Academic Affairs before returning to academia in 1965, teaching literature at SIUE until his retirement in 1980. He died in September of 2008. The William and Margaret Going Endowed Professorship Award recognizes CAS faculty who have outstanding teaching, scholarly and/or creative activity accomplishments. The award is open to all full-time, tenure-track faculty, and carries a stipend of $10,000. The endowed professorship lasts for one year, and awardees provide a public lecture at the end of this appointed time.
In selecting Matejka for the award, the selection committee stated “Professor Matejka has done a tremendous amount of work in his specialty area and is gaining a national reputation. His plans to bring his work to public attention were outstanding and include readings at SIUE, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York.”
Matejka was inspired by poet and educator June Jordan. Jordan asserted that poetry is for everyone, “…teachers, plumbers, lawyers, couch potatoes—anyone who uses language thoughtfully,” Matejka said. “The key is introducing them to the art form.”
In this spirit, he plans to work with the professors and instructors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to create mini-seminars in poetry with small groups of students. “Through these workshops and readings, I hope to help foster a different appreciation for poetry within the communities,” he said.
This has been a year of accomplishment so far for Matejka. He was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the poetry division earlier this year. Among his other achievements, Matejka is a Cave Canem fellow and has won two Literary Awards from the Illinois Arts Council. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies including American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2010, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast and Prairie Schooner.
“It is only through the support of my colleagues in creative writing and English, and the University as a whole, that I've been able to achieve what I have the past couple of years,” he said. “The William and Margaret Going Professorship Award is a bit different because it is bestowed directly by Dean Romero and the College of Arts and Sciences (thank you Dean!), it is still emblematic of the community support I've received.”
His department shares in the pride of his achievements. Assistant Chair Sharon James McGee commented, “Adrian’s award-winning poetry collection, Mixology, swirls jazz and hip-hop rhythms with race, popular culture, and the changing mix of American life. His colleagues in the Department of English Language and Literature are very proud of his accomplishments, including most recently receiving the Going Award. It’s unprecedented for an assistant professor to earn this award, and Adrian’s work deserves this recognition.”
Matejka earned his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale then came to the SIUE’s Department of English Language and Literature in the fall of 2007, where he specializes in creative writing. For the Spring 2010 semester he also is teaching a literature seminar focusing on the African Diaspora.
“I enjoy teaching literature classes because they allow me to spend time thinking about the impact and influence writing can have, rather than thinking about how to craft words that impact or influence,” Matejka explained.“Beyond that, we get to study texts that I wish I would have been exposed to as a student.”
Matejka serves as poetry editor for Sou’wester, a national literary publication housed within the Department of English. He continues to work on a new collection entitled The Big Smoke. “It is comprised of persona poems in the voice of Jack Johnson, the first African-American World Heavyweight Champion,” he said. “The collection is challenging because Johnson became World Heavyweight Champion by beating Tommy Burns in 1909, only 13 years after the Supreme Court upheld Plessy vs. Ferguson.”
Upon being notified of being the 2010 award recipient, Matejka was humbled. “I still can't believe how fortunate I am to be a professor at this university. I get to spend my days talking with great students about things I love.”