“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” writes Maya Angelou in her seminal work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In his award-winning debut collection, Refuse (emphasis on the first syllable, but used for its homographic ambiguity), the poet Julian Randall is beginning to tell the stories of his life, his family, and his world.
In this wide-ranging interview, Randall’s thoughtfulness and wealth of knowledge is on full display as he and host Lissa Jones talk about his development as a writer, seeing himself on TV for the first time in That’s so Raven and Taina, Barack Obama, the Great Migration (he cites Isabelle Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns), his favorite James Baldwin work (Sonny’s Blues), and the need to create space for craft essays by writers of color (just to name a few).
In response to a question about what he would give to young writers (though admittedly very young himself) Randall says he’d tell them, “Our ‘I’ matters because it allows us to dream wildly that we are not alone.”
On this episode, Lissa talks with poet Julian Randall about his impressive debut collection Refuse. Julian is a Living, Queer, Black poet from Chicago. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet, as well as being the recipient a Pushcart Prize.
Readings from Refuse:
(15:45) ‘The author is often mistaken for Obama’s long lost son’ (p. 47)
(35:19) ‘I think everybody has a year they never really leave’ (p. 11)
Julian Randall is a Living, Queer, Black poet from Chicago. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole and was the 2015 National College Slam (CUPSI) Best Poet, as well as being the recipient a Pushcart Prize. Julian is the curator of Winter Tangerine Review’s Lineage of Mirrors. He is a candidate for his MFA in Poetry at Ole Miss. His first book, Refuse, is the winner of the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry prize and was published by University of Pittsburgh Press in Fall 2018.
Go Deeper: Additional Materials
Julian Randall curates Lineage of Mirrors for the online journal Winter Tangerine Review. The idea grew out of his recognition of the need to collect craft essays by writers of color:
An innovative, independently run literary & arts journal dedicated to the electric.
Randall cites the work of poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib when talking about the culture of the midwest:
Read the poem “No More Cake Here” by the Poet Natalie Diaz from her collection When my Brother was an Aztec:
When my brother died
Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “My President was Black” in The Atlantic. Randall cites Coates’ writing on Barack Obama when discussing the legacy of Barack Obama and the slave trade:
A history of the first African American White House-and of what came next “They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp.