Some people stand up to President Donald Trump in the courts, others in street protests. And the poets among us, they battle Trump with an arsenal of verse.
The Republican man of the hour
Is a wellspring of bluster and glower.
Trump is rich and he’s white,
How’s he leading the fight
Against entrenched Establishment power?
That’s by Bill McGloughlin, a librarian in Charlotte, North Carolina, who was one of the winners of my Donald Trump Poetry Contest. We had about 2,000 entries, and today I’m publishing the winners.
Some relied on humor – while complaining that almost nothing rhymes with “orange”! – and that’s the tack taken by Stephen Benko, a retired businessman in Fairfield, Connecticut. Benko has published an entire book of poems about Trump, but this one is new:
If God made man in his image
Please explain our new President’s visage
That pucker and scowl
Look like murder most foul
What in heaven, Lord, earned us this priv'lege?
Dan Letwin, a history professor at Penn State, wrote a timely “ode to alternative facts”:
Well now, Kellyanne Conway has lately conceived
Of a new understanding of what to believe
When the truth gives you heartburn, don’t worry, relax
You can always resort to alternative facts!
Oh it works for the Donald and all of his hacks
As they go ‘bout promoting their retrograde acts
Don’t fret if your documentation is lax
You can always get by with alternative facts!
Don’t fear all those women with signs on their backs
The straight and the queer, the whites and blacks
You can trivialize them with snide little cracks
And wash them away with alternative facts!
Just as loggers might swing an alternative ax
And fell a great tree with alternative whacks
When the truth won’t cooperate, try some new tacks
We live in an age of alternative facts!
I sought out pro-Trump poems, but poets seem to be disproportionately aghast at his presidency. One of the most personal poems came from Amit Majmudar, the poet laureate of Ohio, who submitted a moving poem about his mother becoming a U.S. citizen. It’s a long poem, but it ends:
In the year of our liar 2016
My mom became the citizen
Of a strange America.
Improbability, too, is a force of nature.
We couldn’t not watch.
Unnatural untruths become natural lies.
In 2016, my mom became a naturalized
Citizen just in time to watch
Najma Menai of West Lafayette, Indiana, a student at Purdue, says that writing poetry is “one of the chief ways I’m keeping myself sane these days.” She submitted this poem warning against Trump’s antics distracting us from critical issues:
He will say something awful
And cause quite the fuss
Until that one thing
Is all we discuss….
So when Trump says
The wall will now be a fence
Worry more about
Bannon and Priebus and Pence….
And when he acts like a child
On the global stage
Worry more about
How you, yes you, must engage
Richard Kenney, a poet who teaches at the University of Washington, offered a lovely poem about our “commander in tweet.” Two excerpts:
We mustn’t slander our Twitter Commander,
he'll burble our bird and snatch our bander
and fire off a tweet with his hot little hand, or
maybe report us, so stay discreet–
Commander in Tweet! Commander in Tweet!
Muster the army, commission the fleet!
He’s a patsy for Putin, buffoon complete–
(And that old Constitution? Hit Delete–)
I held this contest partly because we’ve all heard so much commentary about Trump, and I figured that verse might offer a new lens through which to see our president. It also struck me that there are fears that Trump will slash budgets for the humanities and the arts, including the National Endowment for the Arts. So it seemed appropriate to applaud the artists fighting the perverse with verse – and in that spirit, I'll give the last word to Susan McLean, a poet and English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University:
Trump seethes at what the writers say.
He'll pull the plug on the N.E.A.
The joke’s on him.Art doesn’t pay.
We write our satires anyway.
Nicholas Kristof can be contacted at Facebook.com/Kristof or Twitter.com/NickKristof.