“Trump didn’t just unleash a virus on our country. Trump is a virus in our country.”
Flatman follows the outrages of the Trump administration from September 2018 forward, from his first playground taunts of ABC reporter Cecilia Vega through his helpful suggestions to water-bomb an 800-year-old cathedral.
From “Flatman” to “The Parasite,” this chapbook chronicles the reign of a villain in villanelles – and other poetic forms.
Associate professor of writing at MSU, Cheryl Caesar spent 25 years living in Paris, Tuscany and the Republic of Ireland. She gives readings locally of her protest poetry, and serves on the board of the Lansing Poetry Club. Last year she won third prize in the Singapore Unbound international poetry contest for a poem on climate change, and this March she won the “no age limit” scholarship to the Fine Arts Writing Center Social Justice workshop in Provincetown MA offered by Indolent Books, publisher of the protest poetry blog What Rough Beast.
Cheryl Caesar’s debut book of poems, “Flatman and Other Poems of Protest in the Trump Era”, melds the author’s deeply visceral reaction to the 45th President with a highly observant and erudite account of events and consequences. The poem “Flatman”, which begins this slender volume, the author is in full Berserker cry, hurling cathartic blow after blow and contains an inventive and hilarious insult, “his ejaculate must smell like a cigarette butt in an old coke can.” Steven Colbert would be envious.
Fortunately, this collection is not a single tone anti-Trump screed. Caesar writes of events and actions that appalled and offended her: the detention of immigrant children, the hypocrisy of the Republican Party and unsavory characters such as Kanye West, Jared Kushner, Lindsey Graham and Kim Jong Un. She infuses her writing with a wide range of references, Yeats, Cervantes, Kipling and a playful piece about Michael Cohen set to Dr. Seuss’s song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.
Notable of her non-Trump pieces are “Night Cramp” where she uses the event of a leg cramp as a metaphor for her personal despair and pain; “Letter to Our Lady” concerning the fiery destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris where the author lived and taught for many years; “Children Draw Themselves” based on a newspaper article describing artwork made by immigrant children in detention centers.
Like some films, this book is one that reveals additional insights upon multiple viewings. There are subtle, clever and often funny bits in Caesar’s work not immediately apparent. Those who are worn out and weary of the past 4 years, it is understandable that “Flatman” may hold scant appeal. But I would argue that you should hang on to it. Americans have very short memories and are shockingly and selectively amnesiac about the past. Tuck this away and return when events start having the vague odor of a groundhog. Reread these words of an intelligent and courageous
woman who bore witness and put down on paper a testament of one the worst periods of our nation’s history
I first saw this author read one of her poems (Flatman) at an open mic on Facebook during the 2020 Pandemic. I was so intrigued, I got the book, and it is beyond excellent! Cheryl has the spirit of a warrior and the presence of a scholar. Get this book today~ you won't regret it for one moment!
Cheryl Caesar's writing reminds me of the writing of Joan Didion. In Flatman, she is burning the house down, and I am roasting marshmallows on it!
Cheryl Caesar writes with a probing veracity and insight, reminding us of what we must not forget. If only Flatman were a fictitious character we might be laughing; instead we feel like crying.
Cheryl Caesar lived in Paris, Tuscany and Sligo for 25 years; she earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the Sorbonne and taught literature and phonetics. She now teaches writing at Michigan State University. She gives poetry readings locally and serves on the board of the Lansing Poetry Club. Last year she published over a hundred poems in the U.S., Germany, India, Bangladesh, Yemen and Zimbabwe, and won third prize in the Singapore Poetry Contest for her poem on global warming. She also won a scholarship to the Social Justice workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., awarded by Indolent Books. Her work is appearing soon in an anthology of Reo Town readers from Lansing. She has been swimming with wild dolphins, and it is one of the high points of her life.
Flatman in the media. Airdate:
Flatman in the media. Airdate: 2020-07-16
Flatman in the media. Airdate: 2020-06-11
Flatman in the media. Airdate: 2020-05-15
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