Evening with Khadijah Queen transports audiences into her world

Asia Thomas, Contributing Reporter

Khadijah Queen (L) and Emma Allen (R) (Julie Qiu)

Within her first 10 minutes on stage, Khadijah Queen was engaging, mesmerizing and moving. Her first piece set the scene for a night of jaw-dropping, beautiful verse ahead and guided audiences to the edge of their seats right off the bat.

A state of camaraderie through conversation greeted audiences at the door before Queen ever took the podium. Students, faculty and many members of the community filed into the gallery, with staff having to add additional seating. 

As time inched towards the 7 p.m. start, the audience anxiously awaited the award-winning, multi-hyphenate, author-poet. Students and adults toted copies of her book, and all ears opened at the beginning of the 2021 ceremony

Following an introduction consisting of a reading of “Portraits of a Lady” by the program’s namesake, Florie Gale Arons, recited by Tulane junior Emma Allen, Queen took her stand. Comfortable and charismatic, her humor and occasional profanity brought down the formality of the evening. 

Queen took a personal tone with the audience which only added more relatability into her poems. Her words were real, each verse holding themes that everyone in the room could relate to one way or the other. 

The first piece was followed by another new poem written in the midst of the pandemic. Queen employed the quick-witted storytelling accustomed to poetry to retell feelings of the last year. Queen never seemed to miss the mark as she spoke on virtual phone calls and social distancing with her own family. Her words were like a vessel that transported the audience from the Diboll Gallery to the tumultuous summer of 2020.

Queen’s world of words expanded even more so as she dove straight into snippets of her book “I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On.” She changed her voice for these readings. The softness she had adapted for the previous poems shifted into a higher-pitched, faster cadence mimicking the chaotic thoughts and experiences of adolescence. 

Hinted by the title, Queen’s passages are accounts of her upbringing in Los Angeles, an area where she recalled seeing celebrities all over, from malls to grocery stores. She shared stories of run-ins with several famous men such as LL Cool J. Good experiences were intermixed with several bad ones as Queen painted vivid pictures of these flashbulb memories.  

Each reading was as relatable as the last, although it is likely no one in the room had run into LL Cool J recently. Khadijah Queen’s imagery allowed for self-insertion for women, marginalized people and anyone who could see themselves in her words. 

Wrapping up the night, Queen’s final readings are a poem titled “Any other name” and “BI-RD” from “Shipwreck.” The former centered around identity while the latter a more upbeat story of a workplace. These two poems were drastically different yet carried forth the type of engaging storytelling Queen exhibited every second of the night.

The conclusion of the evening left everyone in the room, especially myself, blown away and wishing for more from Queen. The poet’s world of works was intensely captivating and left me wondering where I could get all of her books the fastest. An evening with Queen was thought-provoking, transformative and had me longing for an encore.