(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Assistant English Language and Literature Professor Adrian Matejka will share billing with actors Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Williams, Denzel Washington and other noted celebrities at the 41st Annual NAACP Image Awards. Matejka has received an Image Awards nomination for an Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry for his book Mixology (Penguin Group, 2009) Although Mixology had already been selected for the 2008 National Poetry Series and won an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, this new honor came as quite a surprise. “I was nominated for The Devil's Garden (Alice James Book, 2003) back in 2004, but I wasn’t a finalist that year,” Matejka explainedsaid.
“And, this year I had no idea I was in the running at all until I found out I was one of the final nominees.” The NAACP awards ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on Friday Feb. 26 and will be televised on the Fox network. Watch your local station listings for broadcast times.
Mixology differs from Matejka’s earlier work. “America is a very different place now, a place that requires a different kind of poem,” Matejka said. “I’m really drawn to the ways that race, history, and cultural identity influence pop culture. In Mixology, I tried to explore these ideas with proper deference,” Matejka said.
In the past, the NAACP Image Awards program has provided a venue or stage for people of color to receive accolades and recognition for their work in entertainment and literature. The awards celebrate “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice,” according to the Image Awards Web site. A group of 300 NAACP leaders and industry professionals select nominees in 53 categories, focusing on motion pictures, television, writing and directing, recording and literature. Winners of the awards are selected through votes cast by NAACP members.
“Being one of the final nominees is humbling to say the least,” Matejka said of his award nomination. “The NAACP has advocated for the rights of people of color in the United States for over 100 years. Were it not for the work of the NAACP and of other socially conscious organizations and individuals, I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I’ve been able to do. So, as a teacher and a poet, in a lot of ways, I’m the result of the work they’ve done,” Matejka added.
Colleagues at SIUE have encouraged Matejka in his work, and are proud of his accomplishments. Associate Professor Larry LaFond, chair of the department, said his teaching staff is proud of Matejka’s work. “Faculty ... were understandably very proud of Professor Matejka when he received national critical acclaim for his book, Mixology,” LaFond said. “However, this latest recognition is extraordinary—we could not be happier for Professor Matekja and consider SIUE very fortunate to have a poet of his caliber in our faculty ranks,” LaFond said. “Students who pursue a creative writing degree at SIUE are very fortunate to have nationally recognized writers like Professor Matejka teaching them.”
With support from SIUE’s Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Matejka is planning on attending the Feb. 26 event. “It goes without saying that this is a great honor,” he said. “It speaks both to the creative work I’ve been doing and the institutional support I’ve received,” he said. And, Matejka wouldn’t mind rubbing elbows with some of the stars and celebrities who will be at the ceremony. “I’d like to meet Denzel Washington. He gets a shout out in one of the poems in Mixology (“Domo Arigato, Mr. Mulatto”) and I’d like to give him a copy,” he added.
“If I make it to the red carpet, I’ll try not to trip,” Matejka quipped.