OCTOBER 1, 2018 | BY KAITLYN SISCO for The Daily Mississippian
Julian Randall, a poet and master’s student of English, read from his debut book of poetry, “Refuse,” at Goolsby’s Hair World on Saturday night.
Though a barbershop might seem like an odd place for a poetry reading, organizers said Goolsby’s was chosen intentionally to collide poetry with a traditionally black space. Audience members found that this heightened the poetry’s power.
“Since the reading was held in a (place) traditionally seen as black space, I think the work resonated a lot more,” audience member Sarah Webb said.
According to a description from the University of Pittsburgh Press, Randall’s collection “documents a young biracial man’s journey through the mythos of Blackness, Latinidad, family, sexuality and a hostile American landscape.” The poet seeks truths about father-son relationships and black trauma during the time period of the Obama presidency.
With references to Greek mythological entities such as Icarus and Narcissus, “Refuse” provides a glimpse into what aspects of the characters, both positive and negative, parallel Randall’s own journeys and understanding of the world.
Before Randall performed his debut work, a few poets who have made a prominent impact on him read pieces of their own.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, a creative writing professor, began with a performance of her poem “Why I Crave Ribs Tonight.” Fellow creative writing master’s student Tyriek White followed this by reading an excerpt from his recent work “The Killing Fields,” and Derrick Harriell, associate professor of English and African American studies, read “All Strippers Reincarnate in Mississippi.”
After these readings, Randall began to recite his poetry. He said these poems came from a time when he was discovering his black life while it was being taken from him. He began with “I Think Everybody Has a Year They Never Really Leave,” which explores grief and includes lines such as “every season dies eventually.”
Following this opener, Randall continued with “In the Netflix Trailer Obama Says ‘I Don’t Fit In Anywhere’ while Anthony Hamilton Pulls a Burning City Out of His Mouth” and “A Variation On A Theme Of Genetics,” which centers around a theme of loyalty to one’s native heritage. “Translation” and “(Self) Inflicted” use motifs of guilt and loneliness while painting pictures of beauty, encapsulated in such phrases as “honeyed tongue.”
Stephen Hundley, also a creative writing master’s student, reacted positively to the work.
“I attended this release party because both the author and I are from the same writing community,” Hundley said. “It’s exciting work, and I am here to support.”
Hundley said his favorite part of the performance was that he could actually hear the work Randall constructed from the perspective of the author himself.
Randall plans to continue his tour with a 6 p.m. reading at Violet Valley Bookstore in Water Valley on Oct. 6 before returning to Oxford for a 5 p.m. reading at Off Square Books on Oct. 10.