“Khadijah means wife of the prophet. Nothing about my name is casual. Your mouth has to make an effort.” ~Khadijah Queen, I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On
Khadijah Queen, an Assistant Professor of English from CU Boulder, is author of five books including I’m So Fine (2018), Non-Sequitur (2015), and Fearful Beloved (2015). But categorizing Queen’s writing into one genre is something of a challenge, with her current publications ranging from poetry and prose to lyric plays. Her work has appeared in numerous well-known publications, including Fence, Tin House, and Buzzfeed.
On October 25th, Queen joined us as the Creative Writing Reading Series speaker. Introduced by an MFA candidate, Queen’s work was described as tackling how women move in the world. Once she started reading, her words moved into our space, filling the Longs Peak Room.
Queen began with Fearful Beloved which includes her series of poems addressed Dear Fear. These poems were born from an M.F.A. writing assignment, but “picking fear was very easy for me.”
As she set the scene, I could visualize her sitting amidst the large art installment at a modern art museum. When she began reading, we joined Queen in that space: white curtains hanging from pulleys, swings dangling from the ceiling, pigeons in cages, speakers in bags. We moved with Queen through this space, confronting her own relationship with fear.
The whole evening, I was shocked by the raw depth and breadth of Queen’s words. When she transitioned to excerpts from her lyric play Non-Sequitur, our quiet space was filled with loud words. As the only Black M.F.A. student in her program, Queen turned her words and thoughts into writing. With characters like The Brown Vagina, The Mild Ex-Prisoner and The Chip Off the Old Block, these excerpts spoke about much larger issues, questioning the different roles we play in society. The play turns objects, like The 40% Discount, into characters. Each word hung heavy in the room, The Brown Vagina bleeding and giving birth interspersed with humorous interludes from The Online Payments.
To experience a portion this play for yourself, you can watch this video of Queen reading Act I, Scene I for the Brooklyn Poets Reading Series.
Queen then read from her new book I’m So Fine, written as a series of prose poems without punctuation or sentence breaks. After writing a few stories about the famous people she’s met and what she was wearing, she turned these stories into an entire collection. From Snoop Dogg’s homie Lil’ ½ Dead to DJ Quik and her mother’s encounters with Layzie Bone from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, each of these encounters dug us deeper into her experiences with men, some not so great.
The evening was concluded with four new, “regular ass poems.” Queen’s final poem resonated with me the most, titled I Slept When I Couldn’t Move. This poem carried us through different types of pain, but also different transformations. When do we sleep and what does that sleep mean to us?
The reading was followed by a Q&A with Khadijah Queen. Here are the answers to the questions you’re dying to know:
What is your favorite poet? Lucille Clifton is the one she keeps returning to.
What is your writing process? Queen writes by hand because there’s something about the “body transference” that happens when pen is put to paper.
What advice do you have for young writers? “Be bold.”
What is your favorite Prince song? “Joy in Repetition”
Final advice? Fear is always going to be there so just do it anyway.
Don’t miss the Writer’s Harvest on November 15, 2018 from 7:30-9 pm in the Longs Peak Room, Lory Student Center. Come hear Rebecca Brown and Chloe’ Leisure share their work. Don’t forget to bring non-perishable food donations for the Larimer County Food Bank!