NON- SEQUITUR (Litmus Press2015) presents a chorus of figures and objects carrying on apparently unrelated conversations in a shifting landscape of interiors. Of the play, 2013 Leslie Scalapino Award winner Joyelle McSweeney says, "Khadijah Queen's NON-SEQUITUR is the heir apparent to an avant-garde tradition running from the Futurist Sintesi through Lorca's Impossible Theater, through Black Arts to Suzan-Lori Parks. Smart, jagged, and irrepressible, it splits apart the compulsory coherencies of contemporary life to reveal the barbs and aggressions, fantasies and projections that keep society rolling on its dismal, oppressive track. Against such prerogatives, NON-SEQUITUR is an incandescent and welcome act of sabotage."
"In this brief (as in a legal summation) Khadijah Queen revives the political absurdist experimentalism of Adrienne Kennedy, pushing drama to the limits of genre. Objects, ideas, and human body parts are driven to the same ontological plane, precisely the post-human condition in which we find ourselves: teetering at the boundaries of epistemology. NON-SEQUITUR is conceptual writing with concentrated vengeance; it bristles, trembling with a rage barely contained by Queen's laconic rhetoric and pin-point intelligence."—Tyrone Williams
"Khadijah Queen's NON-SEQUITUR stages the deleted scenes and invisible screens infusing our social relations. Its evolving chorus explodes every imaginable form of address, every fraction of personal and public history until nothing of the illusion of neutrality remains. Each dissonant encounter invents a forum for another nest of questions. This nexus stings."—Eric Baus
"Prodigiously populated theater energized by a rotating cast of intense who dis, who dat and whosoevers: 40% Discount, Morning Stubble, Habitual Justifier, the Charlie Horse Optimist, among others, who if we don't know by name we know them by their catastrophes and desperate hopes. Comedy and calamity spin briskly in the mix, trading lines in duets, trios and quartets. Attention, attention. This is the back of your mind, emerging full blown from a swallowed dream. Here."—Erica Hunt
"Khadijah Queen's ingenious NON-SEQUITUR crashes the contemporary moment—a glut in bloated celebrity, wild brutality, status quo identity mongering. This cutting and finely attuned play features single-line-slinging speakers, often as object, artifact, consequence (i.e. THE BENT BUSINESS CARD, THE HAND-ME- DOWN PINKING SHEARS, THE BLONDE INSTITUTION) who/that 'can sense your violent thoughts.' Queen's complex manifestations of race, sex, and desire rearrange bodies and material lives where 'beauty behave[s] as a whip,' animating perception and perspective into an ever surprising mix of the theater of the absurd and a febrile cultural unconscious, replete with deleted scenes, characters, and contradiction as illumination, like when THE HAPPY SINGLE reports: 'I'm so ex-cited cuz I... ain't a-bout it, hey heeeeyyyyyy!'"—Ronaldo V. Wilson
Photos are from the staged performance by The Relationship, at Theaterlab NYC on December 10, 2015. Directed by Fiona Templeton. Photo credit: Paula Court
The haunting, haunted world revealed in Khadijah Queen's FEARFUL BELOVED (Argos Books 2015) stays with the reader, and heightens awareness of our own world's deep horrors and ordinary brilliance. Anyone who has been unable to shake the erotic brutality of, say, Sylvia Plath's Ariel will savor the 'bruisable monuments' that Queen offers. Here Queen crafts a language that unfolds along multiple axes (spatial, temporal, emotional, spiritual) and is experimental with form while remaining seamless, precise, and vivid. Addressing Fear head-on—'your spectrality exists,' she insists—Queen's FEARFUL BELOVED evidences the fierce intelligence of 'a body in its own time, possessed of itself.'
Khadijah Queen’s Fearful Beloved is an audacious gaze at the public and private spaces where we often fear, in our words and acts, to address the body of fear itself. Her poetry insists, as readers and bodies, that we must not look away from our own spines and mirrors. She writes, “if you listen – not you, fear,/but us, as you – deciding how to exist.” Her vision of bodies, intricately complex as her astonishing syntax, gleams with the tension of power, desire, mortality, and violence. Burning, and nuanced, Queen dares us to name our deepest bones, “O/let godliness and beastliness crash/together until compliance/O/love them all/O say every one of their names.” Here you will discover a language of marrow, brilliant and potent as bloodroot. Here, in Fearful Beloved, you will witness the velocity of Queen’s distinct voice, intense and profound in its survival. —Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Khadijah Queen’s Fearful Beloved is a bold mosaic of forms, and each poem is a shade of aching. Together, they shape fiercely potent letters to fear; feminine and power and despair; demolition of the contemplative house. —Lily Hoang
Fearful Beloved is a beautiful book, where the architecture of the house entangles with the architecture of the body to produce a language at once beguiling and strange, yet fused with the fiercest love. —Kate Durbin
Fear can make us its dwelling place; it can have us haunting our own house. Khadijah Queen writes us through the rooms of the forest, the limits of shelter, from what we needed once to what we might be free to become without it. Fearful Beloved speaks directly along the lines of rootedness and growth, the blasting or freeing power of something seemingly small, the way a person shaped by fear “strikes at movements invisible to those accustomed to the light.” When you can see yourself to save yourself, that is when you can begin. —Kate Schapira
Photo credits: Jen Rodewald/Swedish Consulate 2015 (reading only) and Paul Octavious at Ann Hamilton's art installation event of a thread (Park Avenue Armory 2013), where the "Dear Fear" sequence of Fearful Beloved was written.
BLACK PECULIAR (Noemi Press 2011) sketches out power dynamics and faulty assumptions in terms of race and history, media and culture, and sex and gender in highly original lines of verse. An extraordinary mixture of wit and profundity, the three long works in the collection weave the personal and the political in both ruthless and tender ways. A fiction, a chorus, a leap into chaos, an unflinching love letter and a fierce indictment—BLACK PECULIAR collages observation and lived experience through a many-voiced "I" as flawed and complex and unusual as the mind of the artist in the world.
Video of September 1, 2011 Cave Canem Reading at the New School with Duriel Harris and M. Ayodele Heath (Khadijah reads at 46:57 mark)
BLACK PECULIAR navigates experience like a transparent filter feeder; common existence is sucked in and read from all angles that can be discovered all at once. I love how Khadijah Queen both insists on and secures sweet successes, using hybrid machinery made from salvage: remnants that survived something. In BLACK PECULIAR are the transformed and transforming outcomes and consequences of survival, outcomes and consequences that leave survivors so changed, they are often not recognizable as what they were, just hints here and there that supply a taste for the future, for moving on. In Queen’s book is some of the joy and necessity of what is bold enough to emerge strangely, beyond ability to be restrained with definitions.” —Thylias Moss
Photo credits: Rachel Eliza Griffiths 2008 and Jane Feng 2010
CONDUIT (Black Goat/Akashic Books 2008) is infused with the cacophony of everyday existence and the neon dance of dreams. This intricate debut by Khadijah Queen channels the unbroken murmurs between body and spirit, methodically traversing an uncertain reality on a path that moves beyond the edges of words. In deference to Plato, Cratylus, and Central American rituals, Conduit exposes a tender core, fearlessly pulling away the roughened muslin of our shared human skin.
"CONDUIT, Khadijah Queen's debut collection, is itself a current that runs through a historical and mythical past, continuing through our troubled present. These stunning meditations...are called up out of the soil and already belong to us before we come to them." -- Claudia Rankine, author of CITIZEN, from the Introduction
“Khadijah Queen’s CONDUIT is lyrically addictive and singularly mesmerizing, the perfect illustration of what can happen when a deft arbiter of language sets her sights inward where heat resides. Pages of lean miracles rattle perception and leave the reader leaning forward, craving Queen’s signature brand of electricity. Prepare to be jolted.” —Patricia Smith, author of Blood Dazzler
“CONDUIT is a challenging book because she gives you so much to ponder in so little time. I found myself turning back to poems, needing to reread a line or two, surprised and amazed at how fresh and engaging imagery can be in the hands of poet with stunning intellectual powers.” —Eloise Klein Healy, author of The Islands Project: Poems for Sappho
Photo credits: Georgia Van Gunten 2014, Nicholas Brooklyn 2011
It's easy to be starstruck in California. But what happens when you become the center of attention to the stars? In this digital chapbook, Khadijah Queen pulls back the velvet rope and Hollywood's curtain to reveal what singers, movie stars, and comedians are like when they think no one's looking . . . or writing a book about them.
Multi-genre literary reading series founded and curated by Khadijah Queen
Years active: 2008-2016
Many events sponsored by Poets & Writers, Macaulay Honors College (CUNY), and NYCFA. Locations included Elliott Bay Books (Seattle), La Casa Azul bookstore (East Harlem), Casa Libre (Tucson) and ArteryLA (Los Angeles).
The annual Courting Risk literary reading series featured emerging writers who reflect the gamut of literary, artistic, personal and professional experience. Working in multiple modes and art forms – from playwriting and music to visual art, film and new media – they explore the limits of their talents with edge, grace, intelligence and a keen sense of what matters to humanity.
While the first event featured only women and LGBTQ writers, it expanded to include men whose work pays special attention to gender equity.