This book length poem almost has to be read out loud to get the full effect. Written in 1928, it is a fun jazz-age piece. The character’s are straight out of a gangster’s speakeasy: Queenie “was a blond, and her age stood still” and her lover Burrs was “A clown, Of renown: Three-sheeted all over town.” The plot is predicted by the title of the book, Queenie decides to throw a party and as the alcohol flows things get out of hand.
Here’s a sample:
The candles flared” the shadows sprang tall,
Leapt goblin-like from wall to wall;
Mimicking those invited.
The edition I have is illustrated by Art Spiegelman. The images look like Halloween woodcuts. Burr’s clown face grimaces on a vaudeville poster. Dancers cast huge shadows against candle lit walls. Spiegelman also wrote an introduction to the book in which he recounts a discussion he had about the poem with William Burroughs, also a fan. Spiegelman said he didn’t know if it was a good poem, a bad poem, or poetry at all. Burroughs replied “Of course it’s poetry. It rhymes.” Whether you think it’s good poetry or bad, it’s riotously good fun.