50th year for Dudley Randall poetry contest



Professor Claire Crabtree remembers poet Dudley Randall.

For thirty years, Randall judged the poetry contest that still carries his name two decades after his death.

“I would bring the copies over to Mr. Randall and we would sit and talk together about the poems,” said Crabtree.

The Dudley Randall Poetry Prize is approaching its 50th anniversary, with its college deadline rapidly approaching on Feb. 15.

Randall worked as a librarian at University of Detroit, beginning in 1969, and served as university poet-in-residence.

Only a year after arriving here, he started the poetry prize.

Randall became a notable publisher and poet after earning his bachelor’s degree in English at Wayne State University and a master’s in library science at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

An African American poet himself, he felt that black poets with important voices were not being published.

This realization prompted him to create Broadside Press in 1965.

“He has a very unique role in the Detroit poetry scene,” said Mary-Catherine Harrison, chair of the English department.

Many poets Randall published were natives of Detroit. The poems and works of Sonia Sanchez and Gwendolyn Brooks, a future U.S. poet laureate, were published by his Broadside Press.

Since Randall’s passing in 2000, the English department has taken over the competition, working actively to keep Randall’s legacy alive.

To celebrate the poetry competition’s 50th anniversary, a high school prize is being introduced this year.

All high schoolers from around the area are eligible to compete.

College students compete in a separate division.

The first-place college winner is awarded a prize of $150 and reads the winning poem at the honors convocation on March 22.

Second- and third-place winners receive $75 and $50, respectively.

All three winners will have their names recognized in the honors convocation booklet as well.

“It is a huge honor to win the prize,” said Harrison.

When Randall first opened this competition, he sponsored the event and paid for the prize money out of his own pocket.

Randall was a judge for 30 years, even after he retired from the university.

This year’s judges will be poets and professors Claire Crabtree, Michael Lauchlan and Allison Powell.

For students interested in participating in the poetry competition, the submission deadline is Feb. 15 for the college prize and Feb. 24 for the high school prize.

For information, email mc.harrison@udmercy.edu.