Appalachian-style string-band music and Alaska-setting storyteller Ken Waldman will be back in New York this week for his traditional Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) roots music artist showcases and exhibition hall booth attendance. But “Alaska’s Fiddling Poet” is in town early this year to officially launch his new book Trump Sonnets, Volume 2, published Jan. 1 by Ridgeway Press.
Waldman will appear Tuesday evening at the Theater at Blessed Sacrament, where he’ll debut his Donald Trump is My Muse theater piece, which combines his music, stories, and sonnets from the two Trump volumes. He’ll be joined there by old-time/bluegrass musician Thomas Bailey and other guests in the manner of his APAP showcases.
A full-time touring performer, the Alaska-based Waldman has previously published seven poetry collections, a memoir, the children’s book D is for Dog Team, and nine CDs (including two for children) that combine his music and poetry—a mix labeled by The Denver Post as “Renegade Americana.” His poetry has been nominated for prizes, and his writing has appeared in numerous publications as well as anthologies published by University of Alaska Press, University Press of New England, and Everyman's Library.
Of Trump Sonnets, Volume 1—subtitled The First 50 Days--the veteran poet and critic Grace Cavalieri wrote, “Good thing we have the First Amendment or this dude would be an ex-pat. Funny and smart though.” Published last March, its 71 sonnets were written immediately following the 2016 presidential election, the first line, “You make George W. seem a statesman--your opening trick,” the very morning after.
That first collection quickly went through an initial printing.
Trump Sonnets, Volume 2 is subtitled 33 Commentaries, 33 Dreams, with half its poems offering incisive commentary, the other half Trump “dreams“ imagined by Waldman.
“I’ve never had a book easier to sell,” says Waldman, “or something that more people have been interested in--though I’ve also had people explain that they’re so tired of Trump, they don’t want to see one more thing! Sure, people are exhausted by all things Trump. But there’s nothing like this project.”
As for this year’s APAP showcase, taking place again Friday night for the ninth consecutive year at Hell’s Kitchen cabaret Don’t Tell Mama, Waldman will host and perform with returning favorite from last year Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards, singer-songwriter/percussive dancer Kristin Andreassen, blues/folk duo Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, folk musician/juggler Nate the Great and banjoist/fiddler/folklorist/archivist Brian Vollmer, Appalachian-inspired trio The Early Mays, fiddler Ryan Drickey and Utvandrarna, and Brooklyn’s Lily Henley Band.
“Eight groups, a cozy and famous venue an easy walk from the conference hotel, and free drinks!” says Waldman. “It makes for a well-worthwhile evening, and this year’s lineup will be just as wonderful. Like [Katonah, N.Y.’s Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts’ American roots music specialist] Maggi Landau says, ‘It’s a highlight of the [APAP] weekend.’”
Waldman is also staging his Don’t Tell Mama program the night before to Brooklyn, though that show, at Jalopy, isn’t promoted to the general public as well as the trade.
Meanwhile, Waldman says he’s already well into his third volume of Trump Sonnets, and tallies over 170 Trump sonnets written since the election.
Ken Waldman plays fiddle and reads from "Trump Sonnets, Volume 2"