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  • Jim Bessman

'Alaska's fiddling poet' Ken Waldman readies fifth and sixth volumes of his acclaimed &#


Ken Waldman performs his "Trump Sonnets" prior to his 2019 appearances at the PortFringe festival in Portland, Maine.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on Ken Waldman’s peripatetic performance tour schedule, but the Appalachian-style string-band music fiddler/entrepreneur, whose From Manhattan to Moose Pass roots music variety showcase at Midtown Manhattan cabaret Don’t Tell Mama is always a big hit at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) annual trade conference in January, luckily has a second creative outlet to fall back on.

The Alaska-based Waldman is known affectionately as “Alaska’s fiddling poet,” and at this year’s APAP presented a second showcase at Don’t Tell Mama (A Night of Music and Spoken Word Theater), during which he performed, with acoustic music backing, an original theatrical presentation, Trump Sonnets or: How I’ve Taken on Donald Trump (and Won).

The piece employed his music and storytelling, along with poetry selections from three published volumes of Trump Sonnets, and a fourth, Trump Sonnets, Volume 4--The Shrunken Soul Edition (26 chronologically arranged poems, all titled “Donald Trump: His Shrunken Soul”), which followed in April.

Waldman began writing sonnets about Trump the day after he won the presidential election in 2016. By Inauguration Day, he had over 50 Trump sonnets, and he’s now penned over 500 14-line satirical poems derived from Trump utterances and things people have said about him.

Ridgeway Press, which published the first four volumes of Trump Sonnets, is now set to issue Trump Sonnets, Volume 5 and Volume 6 in January. Volume 5 is subtitled His Early Virus Monologues, while Volume 6, which is a single long narrative poem of 125 sonnets, is subtitled His Middle Virus Soliloquy.

Regarding Volume 5, political analyst and author Jared Yates Sexton (whose latest book American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed its People is out next month) notes, “Perhaps no one has done a better job of chronicling the madness and absurdity of the Trump Era than poet Ken Waldman.”

Poet and political satirist Paul Fericano, in his afterword for Volume 6, states, “It’s Allen Ginsberg's HOWL on Thorazine with a loaded gun.”

With publication of the new Trump Sonnets volumes, Waldman will tally 16 books to go with the nine CDs he’s released as a fiddler. He has played such prestigious venues as the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut, the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland, Australia, and the PortFringe theater festival in Portland, Maine.

Meanwhile, Waldman has been awarded a grant from the Puffin Foundation, LTD for Trump Sonnets or: How I’ve Taken on Donald Trump (and Won).

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