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The Big Smoke

by Adrian Matejka

Paperback, 109 pages, Penguin Group USA, List Price: $18 |


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NPR Summary

Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight champion, is a figure of mythological proportions; in this new collection, poet Adrian Matejka gives the boxer a voice that's wholly human. The poet examines race and racism from Johnson's singular perspective: the son of slave-born Southerners, the opera-loving international celebrity, the abusive playboy arrested for dating white women, the wealthy world champion who couldn't get served at restaurants. Matejka's unflinching verse conveys Johnson's bravura and his bravery, and both the power and the vulnerability of a bleeding, breakable body in the ring.