I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On

 
 

I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On by Khadijah Queen
YesYes Books, 2017; 73 pp.
Reviewed by Chloe Martinez


What’s so liberating about Khadijah Queen’s I’m So Fine is the way it treats the feminine body as potent and also painful, a force to be reckoned with as well as a vulnerability to be managed. Queen’s chosen form, a series of thematically linked and unpunctuated prose poems, also feels free. The book is sub-subtitled “A Narrative,” and these pieces do accumulate into a story, though not a linear one. At the same time, each one functions as a lyric poem, enacting moments of intense feeling:
 

…I had just gotten dumped & some fool splashed half a Long Island Iced Tea on my white sheath dress & I was ready to go & dancing was supposed to make me feel better but instead marked the end of seeing nightclubs as fun despite the wake of Elton John whizzing by so close I could see the fabulous gap in his teeth

—“When I was in my early 30s I saw Elton John in a nightclub in Atlanta called Tongue & Groove”

 

Queen has an incredible ability to take the pop culture tropes of celebrity and fashion and imbue them with depth, specificity, and emotional range. There is also something wonderful about this book’s insistence that one can care about all these things at once: “my favorite old Levis with the hole at the left side belt,” “reading Sula on the couch,” “DeVante’s brother from Jodeci I forget his name,” “the monumental bullshit women in general & women in the military have to slog through,” and “beauty as the accumulation of bliss & survival.” 

I’m So Fine turns its gaze powerfully upon men, famous and not-so-famous, but even more powerfully upon the self: past and present, private and on display, flippant and dead serious. We contain multitudes, as Whitman said. Queen shows us what that can feel like:


I knew that dress did not make me look shy but I thought if I went up there I would faint & I’m not the best dancer I thought I’d probably cry like an idiot & then pass out & wake up & pass out again so I said no & shook my head no my heart beating fast & sweating my dress into a darker blue

—“Prince called me up onstage at the Pontiac Silverdome”
 

Chloe Martinez lives with her husband and two daughters in Claremont, CA, where she teaches on the religions of South Asia at Claremont McKenna College. She is working on a scholarly monograph and seeking a publisher for her first poetry collection. A graduate of Boston University’s Creative Writing MA and the MFA for Writers at Warren Wilson College, her poems have appeared in The Normal School, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Reviewand elsewhere, and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.