Interview: Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka Poet Adrian Matejka used to be a DJ — and when he got stuck in pandemic-induced misery, it was music that lifted him up and helped him finish writing his latest book, Somebody Else Sold the World.

David Bowie, Travis Scott Inspired The Poems In This New Collection

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The pandemic has felt endless for so many of us.

ADRIAN MATEJKA: Every day seemed to be the same day, and every day was so exhausting. And I couldn't figure out how to lift myself out of that other than to write poems.


That's Indiana's former poet laureate Adrian Matejka, who wrote a book called "Somebody Else Sold The World"

MATEJKA: "Somebody Else Sold The World" is about the pandemic. It's about the protests that happened and the way we responded to each other. It's also about music and the joy that music brings.

MCCAMMON: The poet riffs off of songs by musical artists like Talking Heads, Travis Scott and Lana Del Rey.

MATEJKA: I think that other than poetry, music is the most direct conduit for emotion and memory. And so I think one of the things I was trying to do in this last year when things were so ambiguous - right? - was I was trying to figure out ways to maintain memory.

MCCAMMON: As a former DJ and a big fan of David Bowie's, one of the songs Matejka kept returning to last year was "The Man Who Sold The World."

MATEJKA: It got stuck, and it was on play every day. And I realized that there was something inside of it that I needed to write about. So when I started writing about the song, it became clear to me that what I was really writing about was how the former president and his cabal sold all of us out during this pandemic.

INSKEEP: So he decided to play on that title and think about the ways in which we do tend to sell the world.

MATEJKA: Sometimes the somebody is me. Sometimes the somebody is the president. Sometimes the somebody is, you know, one of my neighbors.

INSKEEP: Eight poems share this book's title.

MATEJKA: (Reading) To be poor is to always be blamed for your already busted happenstance. There's no changing that American tradition now, not even during a pandemic. Meanwhile, the antagonists boat out to their islands of isolation and repose. Anything they need is essential, while the rest of us stay in place like furniture.

MCCAMMON: Matejka talks a lot about these, quote, "antagonists," people who only think of themselves, leaving everybody else behind, but it's the music in his poems that reminds us we can lift each other up. Adrian Matejka's new book is out now.


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