Women Changing the Game: Poet and Playwright Khadijah Queen
Livingly's Game-Changing Women series asks female artists, activists, and influencers to share how they're using their platform to incite change in today's political climate.
Meet Khadijah Queen: Prolific poet and playwright. The award-winning poet certainly has an impressive roster of published writings, but she's also got the cool factor down.
In addition to publishing over five books of poetry (digital chapbooks included), reviews of Khadijah's work can be found across a diverse range of publications, from the Boston Review to Huffington Post, to critical acclaim. She is even serving as a core faculty member of the new Mile-High MFA creative writing program at Regis University.
Her newest chapbook, I'm So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, is an engrossing, star-studded read framed by random celebrity sightings in 1980's and '90s Los Angeles –– and what it means to be a young Black woman coming into her own within that world. (Trust us when we say you won't be able to put it down; I certainly couldn't!)
And after reading it, we were even more excited to tap Khadijah via email for her insight on creative inspiration, her social action writing, finding female agency in today's world, and more.
Livingly: Your work has been featured in a wide range of publications, from Publishers Weekly to Buzzfeed and the Los Angeles Review. Can you tell us more about your background, and how you got your start in social action writing?
KQ: Honestly, it's hard to not have social justice themes seep into my writing. I'm the mother of a Black child. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s. I have disabilities. It's important to my daily survival and the survival of those I love to be informed on social issues, to talk about them, and participate in the larger conversation.
What are you most inspired by?
Free spirits. Maduros. Midday naps. Libraries and bookstores. Poetry. Fiction that sounds like poetry. Art, especially drawings and photography. Movies, mountains, mutants and outer space. My nieces and nephews.
Anything fluffy or furry: covers, cats, socks, pillows –– I like comfort, I like beautiful things, I like sensory things –– citrus candles, jasmine incense, blue hydrangeas in a blue vase, white peonies in a mirrored bowl.
Beauty and comfort are luxuries that give me the physical foundation I need to write about things that are very uncomfortable. I don't take any of it for granted.
As an award-winning poet, playwright, and now core faculty member of the new Mile-High MFA program at Regis University, you’ve accomplished so much! What was one of the proudest moments you’ve had so far in your career?
Seeing the production of the play, brilliantly directed by Fiona Templeton and performed by the stellar actors of The Relationship theater company, is definitely way up there. To have such talent behind the staging, seeing how ingeniously they handled the inherent difficulty of putting on a play with 54 characters that are mostly objects and abstracted ideas was simply breathtaking. I am enormously grateful to have witnessed the way such creative minds interpreted my work.
Your fifth book, I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, is full of uniquely rendered and often brutally honest revelations from the behind-the- scenes world of Hollywood (and a variety of random celebrity encounters). In this context, what does female agency mean to you?
I think a woman's agency begins with a firm sense of being whole within herself, so she can fight for her well-being. It means not depending on, even while considering, outside opinions. It means having integrity, and a willingness to create circumstances in which you can refuse to compromise that integrity or wholeness. It doesn't preclude being open to change and evolution, of course, but often I think women can benefit from making a habit of saying no to things that are unhealthy, even if they appear to dazzle on the surface.
At Livingly, we strive to “live life beautifully.” What does living beautifully mean to you?
Living beautifully means finding the right balance between work and rest. It means paying attention to your feelings (physical and emotional) in a world that often demands that you deny them. It means having clarity about who you are and what you are (or would like to be!) capable of, finding space for joy, making creativity a habit, and finding something to love every day as part of the full range of the experience of being human.
Want more from Khadijah? Follow her on Tumblr, and discover more of her writing here.