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Ole Miss Student Wins Poetry Prize, Debuts New Book at Off Square Books

Story contributed by Ole Miss journalism student Sarah Liese

Ole Miss M.F.A. student Julian Randall saw quite the crowd at Off Square Books Wednesday, Oct. 10 for a reading of his recently published book of poems “Refuse”.

“Refuse” shares the story of a biracial man and his passage through hostile terrain, touching on topics such as family, sexuality, racial trauma and grief. Randall’s book is the result of winning the national Cave Canem Poetry Prize, an award dedicated to the discovery of exceptional manuscripts by black poets of African descent. 

“I’ve never gotten a chance to read here before, and that was one of my big Oxford bucket list things,” Randall said. “[Square Books] is one of the first places that said, ‘Welcome home.’”

The award wasn’t Randall’s first success, though. He also won the 2015 National College Slam’s (CUPSI) Best Poet and was a Pushcart Prize nominee. He has also received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole.

However, after all of his accolades, he still remains humble.

“It was a colossal, colossal surprise to even have the opportunity to publish a book,” Randall said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege.”

His achievements inspired one Ole Miss student, Madison Nanney, to go after her own dream of becoming a poet. 

“I want to publish poetry,” Nanney said. “So, to see him and to see how he’s accomplished, it’s like ‘oh yeah, I could do that.’ I can definitely strive to do that.”

Randall said he does not want to grow stagnant. Rather, his main ambition for the future is to build upon the work that he’s produced during his time at Ole Miss.

“I came here because I wanted to see how far I could go, and to see who is the best poet I could be,” he said. “And I’m really just working towards whoever that person is. I’m trying to just stay busy, stay working.”

“Refuse” can be purchased locally at Square Books or on Amazon. 

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