Friday, September 01, 2017

Trump Sonnets: The First Fifty Two Hundred Twenty Five Days w/update

Summer Friday evening: Reading sonnets, sipping saison. 
Talked to my itinerant writer/musician friend Ken Waldman this week. He called from Columbus, Ohio, a place we’ve both worked at different times with our dearly departed friend, poet and bluesman Bob Fox. Ken is at a conference and will soon set off for Seattle. A long drive, as he said, that will take him through Wyoming but not the part I live in. I shall see him another day.

Meanwhile, I have two new books by Ken to review. They are “Trump Sonnets, Volume 1: The First 50 Days” and “Trump Sonnets, Volume 2: 33 Commentaries, 33 Dreams.” The second volume is a review copy and not for sale, not yet – readers have to wait for January 2018. Both books are published by Ridgeway Press in Roseville, Mich. If that sounds familiar, it’s an indie press run in the wilds of Michigan by poet/musician M.L. Liebler. That’s the cool thing about the indie literary world – creative people doing their thing, not waiting around for permission to put their work out into the world. M.L. has been out this way to read and play music and conduct workshops. He brought me to Detroit to read.

I just started reading the first volume of “Trump Sonnets.” The first thing I noticed was a review by Grace Cavalieri from the Washington Independent Review of Books. Grace is another creative free spirit. Here’s what she had to say:
“Anything you ever thought about Trump is here. And more. And this is only Volume 1. Good thing we have the First Amendment or this dude would be an ex pat. Funny and smart though.”
I am going to include some of the sonnets on these pages. Ken said I could. I like this one from Baltimore, home to some of my relatives on Grandma Green Shay’s side:

To Donald Trump, from Baltimore 

You make George W. seem a statesman --
your opening trick. What the hell is next?
Enact bills to place your orange oversexed
visage on stamps and coins? Re-imagine
your university? Republican
top dog, you now own it all. Your context
in history: we’ve seen just how you’ve wrecked
all you touch. Give it time. The American
people is by far your biggest brand yet.
Count me in to see where it all goes.
Sue the senate, your cabinet, run up debt
to Russia and China. And Mexico –-
that wall. Soon appears some sweet young hussy
you’ll have to grab. That’s you, Donald. Fussy.

Ken has had received mixed responses from audiences. No bodily harm, thus far. He is no stranger to those parts of the U.S. that voted for Trump. He usually is referred to as “Alaska’s Fiddling Poet.” This belies the fact that Ken has published ten books, eight of poetry, and nine CDs, two for children. Ken travels the U.S., playing the fiddle and reciting his poetry and judging literary fellowships, as he did for me at the Wyoming Arts Council. He continues to roam the halls at the AWP Conference, no matter if it goes to New York City or San Diego or Austin. A few years ago in Austin, I took part in one of Ken’s off-campus hootenannies upstairs at an old theatre in the music district. We ate, played music, recited poetry and, in my case, prose. It was a fun evening. His events are off-campus because they don’t exactly fit into AWP. It’s not all academic – I’ve been to some lively readings at those conferences, some great spoken-word events. And the book fair is amazing.

But I do have to face the fact that I once represented the academy. Even worse, I was a scout for the literary establishment, a representative for a state arts agency and, for two years (in Pittsburgh and Phoenix), of the National Endowment for the Arts. These are taxpayer-funded entities (for now, at least) that dole out grants and fellowships to creative people, writers included. Ken has never won a literary fellowship, as far as I know. Neither have I, although I have been on a number of panels doling out awards to others. I can name dozens of writers, whose work I admire, who have won fellowships. I can also name others, whose work I admire, who have never won. Fellowships are not the be-all and end-all for writers. But they can give a boost to a career, make a difference between getting published and not getting published.

So, I sit in my office in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and write. I give readings, occasionally, as I did last week in Casper for ARTCORE’s Music & Poetry Series. But I write every day. I’m not sure if Ken writes every day but he sure is productive. He lives most of the year in Louisiana now – hope his place didn’t get flooded in the recent storm. He’s probably traveled a million miles across this great continent. He speaks truth to power, his latest subject the big blowhard in D.C.

Read more about Ken, and order his books, at Buy his latest books at 

Update 9/5/17 on ordering books: Ken sends word from Seattle that the books are not yet available on the Ridgeway Press web site. Best place to order volume one is Small Press Distribution, which is a great place to order any indie press book. Go here: You can also go to Ken's web site. While the second one won't be out officially until Jan. 1, Ken says that "if someone sends me a check, I'll mail them a signed book." This is the kind of can-do entrepreneurial spirit that Trump would write a poem about if he wrote poetry. 

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