Fiddling Around With Poet Ken Waldman

by Christina Butcher for OLY ARTS

“Good satire has its place.” That’s a simple, yet timely point made by fiddler and poet Ken Waldman about today’s tumultuous political climate. Like many poets and musicians, Waldman uses his storytelling craft, not only to process his reactions to politics, but to create meaningful art as well. This Friday, Olympia residents will have the opportunity to delve into Waldman’s particular brand of storytelling at Orca Books, where he’ll read from his latest poetry collection, Trump Sonnets, Volume 1, and perform accompanying, Appalachian-style fiddle music.

Originally from Alaska, Waldman spends most of his time touring the continental U.S. as a poet and fiddler. He performs at theaters, schools and bookstores and participates in arts-council residencies whenever possible. “I’ve been a touring artist since 1995,” Waldman explained. “It’s been a long, slow evolution from what I was doing then to what I’m doing now, though in a sense I’m (still) doing the same thing: mixing Appalachian-style string-band music with original poetry and Alaska-set storytelling.”

Waldman’s reading is part of a four-month tour in which he’ll read from Trump Sonnets, Volume 1. Published in March, the collection comprises his reactions to President Trump’s first 50 days in office. It’s a follow-up to his 2006 poetry book As the World Burns, a satirical account of coming to terms with the impact of former President George W. Bush’s policies and time in office. Waldman’s work has become more political over time. “As Donald Trump has made himself into a historic figure, my way of processing his rise has been to write about it,” Waldman expressed. “It’s really nothing more than my duty as an engaged citizen. I may not be comfortable in huge marches, but I’m fine with writing poems and getting them to people who tell me they find solace in the work. I’m doing my job here.”

Over the course of his lifetime, Waldman has published over nine musical CDs and nine books. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 1988. He went on to teach university-level English until 1992, when he began touring as a freelance musician, writer and performer. Since then, Waldman has taught writing workshops in over 200 schools across the U.S. and been a guest writer at over 80 colleges and universities. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times.

What: Ken Waldman author reading and fiddle performance

When:  6 p.m. Friday, May 5

Where: Orca Books,
509 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia

How much: free

Learn more: 360-352-0123 | Orca Books

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