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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Senior Wins Top Poetry Prize at Southern Literary Festival


Southern Literary Festival Coordinator Jennifer Kates, left, and Jacqulyn Ladnier.

Southern Literary Festival Coordinator Jennifer Kates, left, and Jacqulyn Ladnier.

University of Mississippi senior Jacqulyn Ladnier received the first prize award in poetry at the 2015 Southern Literary Festival (SLA).

Ladnier, a native of Lucedale, is an English major with a minor in cinema.

She wrote her winning poem, “Buon Compleanno, Jep Gambardella,” last fall during a poetry workshop.

Inspired by an Italian film titled “The Great Beauty” that explores the differences in Rome—from saints and the church to drug addicts and crime, Ladnier said she wanted her poem to reflect that portrait of the city.

“It feels very strange to be recognized for poetry,” Ladnier said. “Even though I’ve been writing creatively and taking workshops for a while, I’ve mostly written in prose. I’d never really tried to write poems until the workshop with Melissa Ginsburg [instructor in English], so it feels a lot like beginners luck.

“Even so, I’m glad I was able to be a part of the festival in my last year here, and I’m really thankful for all the support I’ve received from the English department.”

Tom Franklin, associate professor of fiction writing, said Ladnier is one of the best young writers with whom he’s worked.

“Her interest is in the moments before or after where other writers might look,” he said. “But in such moments, she mines pure gold. I’m not surprised her poetry won this prize.”

The award is quite an honor both for Ladnier and the university, said Beth Spencer, English instructor and executive director of the SLA.

“It shows the strength of the English department and writing programs at the university and highlights the talent in our undergraduate students.”