I’m so Fine: A list of Famous Men and What I Had On, Khadijah Queen’s recently published e-chapbook from Sibling Rivalry Press, is both friendly and confiding. Queen makes it seem like there are many famous men just waiting to be lured into an exchange with her, and I finished the book wanting all these hes to read her news blast, a variety of years later.
The eye/I of Queen’s work inscribes the movement of a pendulum. On one side, the words swing toward abstract shapes of the unconscious, and at the other, the weight of language swings out over a seething social critique, one we are hungry for. It is breadth mixed with pace.
In Queen’s second book Black Peculiar the extremities of childbirth are rewritten as “clandestine hours of hiding preserved in shorthand down a bitter sinkhole, small waves swishing. There is a loophole, he says. You can obsess about rattraps and obscure public incidents.” Queen shows the way inside an enrapt minutia of the big deals in life.
And so, she is the perfect guide to the early 21st century, hovering above experiences, open to “facets of the self,” to allegories of fierce imaginations. This is not a tour we have been on before. The reader never knows what to expect. To read Queen is suspenseful; it is writing that exhales with risk. The four word analogies that open the first section of Black Peculiar provide a stretchy fabric of play that is agile and ready to tumble in to. Then there is the bouncy house of seemingly unsent letters. Here are some of their wildly inventive addressees: Dear Alignment, Dear Law, Dear Silence, Dear Hermit, Dear Seer, Dear Interference, Dear Shakespeare, Dear Women in the Waiting Room, Dear Blueprint, Dear Activist.
The concept of pointing towards something so specific is the key to the experience of Queen’s work, so that it is always escaping the page from which we find it. The letters are messages one wouldn’t ordinarily receive. Subliminal or, what you shout when someone cuts you off and you are stuck inside a car talking to yourself. When they reverberate without a visible ripple, that movement goes back in to the body. Queen writes “He gave me nothing to eat but photographs of other people eating meat.”
Similar to the fantastically unexpected addressees, in “Non-Sequitur [A disjointed chorus in three acts]” the final part to Black Peculiar, there are characters whose names are sometimes longer than the words they utter. It is a play that reads like a poem: THE OUTRAGED EXAGGERATOR, THE EXULTANT EXOTIFIER, THE HABITUAL JUSTIFER & THE GHOST OF AUDOBAN try to get along. THE CHAKRA BALANCER declares, from a cross-legged position: “Transcend feet and your race will fall off.” THE ONLINE PAYMENT, THE SIX MONTH WAIT FOR AN APPOINTMENT, THE LOST SKETCHBOOK clamor for their say.