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.
In the 19th century, those unwilling to face the incongruities of a nation espousing freedom while simultaneously perpetuating terror used the phrase our peculiar institution as code for slavery. Here, with equal part precision and aplomb, humility and humor, erudition and absurdity, the work in Khadijah Queen‘s Black Peculiar decodes, uncovers, and recasts such lexical wound dressing, exposing the abraded, scarred flesh of a consciousness both beset upon and liberated through language. Unabashedly experimental, Queen continually bends form to the breaking point, reveling in the absence of authority revealed through hybrid genre: epistolary interrogations of a prismatic self; prose poems blurring narrative and parable; a wild verse play, whose lineage encompasses everything from Ubu Roi to Dutchman to The Vagina Monologues. “I unlocked my chorus of archetypal women from their chains,” Queen tells us. “They rubbed their raw wrists with aloe and set to work.” Would that we could all be subjects under one whose rule is so emancipatory.
Khadijah Queen is also the author of Conduit (Black Goat/Akashic Books, 2008). Individual poems, three times nominated for the Pushcart Prize, appear in jubilat, Eleven Eleven, Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing (University of Arizona, 2009), Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks from Vietnam to Iraq (Kore Press, 2008) and Best American Nonrequired Reading (Houghton Mifflin, 2010) among many other journals and anthologies. Visit her website, www.khadijahqueen.com, and see her tumblr page for related content: http://blackpeculiar.tumblr.com.
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$15 Paperback | Published 2012