Voices of Bettering American Poetry 2015 — Khadijah Queen

What advice do you have for young and emerging writers, particularly of marginalized identities? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received came from my mother, actually. I’ve always been conscientious to a fault and probably say yes to more than I can reasonably do, which leads to overload and, sometimes, to lateness. That’s no good. So, she said to do the best you can and leave the rest alone, which I’ve recently modified to include saying no to things I’d like to do, but simply haven’t the time for. I’ve had to let go of the stress and guilt around not doing all the things, and that feels like such a grand luxury, even though it’s really necessary.


What would you like to see change in the literary world, or how would you “Better” American poetry? Can American poetry be “bettered?”

I love seeing micro communities in poetry make their own alternative spaces for work that doesn’t fit the status quo, yet their excellence is undeniable—this anthology being an example. More of that, please.

What have you been reading, watching, or listening to lately? What new or emerging writer do you want the world to know about?

Philip MetresSand Opera is changing my life. And there are so many young writers whose work I love, whose work is changing poetry for the better, making it more alive and active and current and fly. It’s hard to choose one, and I still say to my students and try myself to be in the habit of reading everything. I will say that have been harassing Ashaki Jackson for a first book for many years now. She has two chapbooks out this year, though, so let’s hope she’s getting closer.


khadijiah-queenKHADIJAH QUEEN is the author of five books, including I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, forthcoming in 2017 from YesYes Books. Her verse play Non-Sequitur won the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers and was staged in 2015 by The Relationship theater company in NYC. She is core faculty in poetry for the new low-residency Mile-High MFA program at Regis University.


This interview series is conducted with authors from the anthology, Bettering American Poetry 2015. As Bettering’s editors wrote in their call for nominations, “Our efforts will intentionally shift favor so that the literary landscape within this anthology reflects a ranging plurality of voices in American poetry and illuminates the possibilities of sharing space … This anthology represents just one concerted effort to better American poetry, but it is one that we hope will resonate.”

Bettering has sought to delve deeper with the poets selected for the anthology. These questions are composed collectively by the editors, with the belief that the literary community needs a polyphony not only of poems but of poets’ voices.