Ken Waldman's First Published Poetry Collection in a Decade
Wednesday, November 9, processing Donald Trump's surprise victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Ken Waldman wrote, You make George W. seem a statesman--your opening trick, which he turned into the first line and a half of a sonnet. A week later he wrote two more Donald Trump-inspired sonnets. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, another 68. That's 71 sonnets, a full-length collection. 41 were written in the voice of Donald Trump. The rest were addressed to him. Waldman has decided the book's subtitle, The First 50 Days, could easily be amended to Every 50 Days, or The Next 50 Days. The work is prescient.
Ken Waldman has taken the book to bookstores in Kansas City (Prospero's), Missoula (Fact & Fiction), Spokane (Auntie's), Olympia (Orca Books), Bellingham (Village Books), Seattle (University Book Store), Eugene (Tsunami Books), Albuquerque (Bookworks), and Austin (Malvern Books). At the Austin event, he was joined by Austin multi-instrumentalists, Jerry Hagins and Beth Chrisman, and that one is available on video, both the whole 52-minute program and as 5 1/2-minute sampler, which is right here: https://youtu.be/bW_pUdjRjfo (the video of the whole program is below).
Trump Sonnets, Volume 1 is itself a sequel to Waldman's 2006 collection, As the World Burns, which was subtitled The Sonnets of George W. Bush and Other Poems of the 43rd Presidency. About that book, Kevin Higgins of nthposition.com wrote:
"More than poetry, they are documents which will help others 50 or 100 years from now, come to grips with what it was like to be in the world in the aftermath of 9/11. . . . As the World Burns is a hugely ambitious book, containing over 60 mostly Petrarchan sonnets. Waldman imagines himself into George W.’s head and goes from there. Scary stuff! It is a rare but great thing to see a contemporary poet working in the satiric tradition of Dryden, Pope, and Swift. . . . It achieves the almost impossible by forcing the reader to come to terms with George W. Bush, the three dimensional human being."
Here's a review of Trump Sonnets, Volume 1 from Grace Cavalieri of the Washington Independent Review of Books. Below that, six videos from the project, including the complete Malvern Books event (that's on the bottom right). And below that, all about Trump Sonnets, Volume 2.
MOST UNUSUAL POEMS
Trump Sonnets by Ken Waldman. Ridgeway Press. 76 pages.
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.
To Donald Trump, from Raleigh
Donald, the more I read of your strange ways,
the more mythic you become: you’re truly
rebranding yourself, making history.
Simple villain, you’re perfect for these days,
this absurd 21st century maze
of non-stop information. Look at me,
you roar. Or plead, Or, god forbid, decree.
Madman, swindler, con man. The names don’t faze
you, Donald. I recall an old college
acquaintance who tossed an empty bottle
at a group, then turned away as surprised
young men found glass shatter by them. Enraged,
the group shouted back. I asked the bottle-
thrower: Why? It wasn’t me, he replied.
What follows Trump Sonnets, Volume 1?
Naturally, Trump Sonnets, Volume 2.
This one is subtitled 33 Commentaries, 33 Dreams. Half of this sequel's 66 poems is incisive commentary (and includes poems for Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, and Sean Spicer/Sarah Huckabee Sanders in addition to the Trump ones). The other half are dreams that Ken Waldman imagines Donald Trump might have, and those are in Trump's voice.
Ridgeway Press of Roseville, Michigan publishes this one too. Small Press Distribution in Berkeley is again the distributor.
Want to see a few YouTube videos of poems from the collection? They're here too along with two poems.
In conjunction with this book, Ken Waldman put together the show: Trump Sonnets or: How I've Taken on Donald Trump (and Won).