Journalist Hart Seely "These poems are more than just quotes"
Ein Interview mit Hart Seely in englischer Sprache: Der US-Journalist hat ein Buch mit Zitaten des US-Präsidentschaftsbewerbers Donald Trump geschrieben - in dadaistischer Gedichtform. Darüber haben wir mit ihm per E-Mail gesprochen.
Jana Sinram: You turned Donald Trumps rhetoric into poetry. How did you come up with the idea?
Hart Seely: Actually, I'm like a 12-year plague. I did the same thing in 1992 with a baseball announcer, producing a book called "O Holy Cow: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto." It didn't make any money, but it brought me some attention. Then, about 12 years ago, as the Iraq War was starting, while I was watching a Pentagon briefing, a twig snapped in my head, and I revisited the idea with "Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld." So this is just a 12-year cycle, I guess.
Jana Sinram: So how did you end up with Trump?
Hart Seely: Over the years, I toyed with other famous cultural figures, but most of them - especially politicians - speak in straightforward prose, and most candidates NEVER stray from talking points. There could never be, say, a Poetry of Hillary Clinton. She is simply too disciplined to go off-topic. When Trump announced his candidacy last summer, he was a funny oddity, a punch line, and I didn't think he'd last long enough to warrant a book. After he disrupted the first GOP Presidential debate, I realized there was enough material for a book, but figured he still would never last as a candidate long enough to be worthwhile. But when his poll numbers kept rising, I put together a book proposal. I watched and transcribed Trump speeches for about three months, never coming up for air.
Jana Sinram: Your book "Bard of the deal" features nearly 200 poems concocted from quotes by Trump. How did you select them?
Hart Seely: I'd like to think these poems are more than just quotes. For starters, they seldom have anything important to say - and they don't cover politics, business, life or culture. But they say a lot about Trump, even if he's not aware of it. They stem from what we would call "asides," when he's digressing from some more important subject, and goes off on a tangent. I believe that when people fly off topic - even if just for a moment - they are briefly talking from the gut. That doesn't necessarily make it a poem, but many of these come from just such moments. The words themselves are not newsworthy, but when read carefully, they create a self-portrait.
"A glimpse into the guy"
Jana Sinram: Can you give an example?
Hart Seely: There's a poem called "The Whatever Force," and I like to think it sums up Trump's incredible ego and instinctive need to sell himself to everybody he sees. It goes this way:
The reason people like what I'm saying is because they want to put that energy,
Whatever the hell Kind of energy it is. I don't know if it's screwed up, if it's good, if it's genius, if it's, whatever it is...
I know how to do things.
August 21, 2015, Rally in Mobile Alabama
Now, basically, that's just one long, convoluted sentence. No reporter in his or her right mind would consider it newsworthy. Nobody would quote him. Yet it's a glimpse into the guy, no? He doesn't know what it is that is motivating him. Weird, eh?
"Trump is tapping into a darkness within America's Soul"
Jana Sinram: Do you have an Intention with your book other than entertaining people?
Hart Seely: This book is supposed to be political satire and meant to make people laugh. That's what I set out to do. There are funny poems, but there are also dark and angry ones, most notably those taken from his recent campaign. I think Trump - with his march toward the extreme - is tapping into a darkness within America's soul. It's beginning to get scary. I think he is a brilliant man who means well, but Trump has huge blind spot for an ego, and the lure of angry crowds is pulling him further and further to the fringes. I think his presidency would be a disaster. As for the poetry, if it were jingoistic, yeah, that could be dangerous. But I don't think any of the poems fall into that category.
Jana Sinram: Looking at Mr. Trumps recent statement in preventing Muslim immigration to the US - is there any poetry in that?
Hart Seely: No. I looked at it closely this morning, thinking that very question. For starters, it's a prepared statement, where the words are carefully chosen, probably written by a handler. Secondarily, there is so much anger in them that I wouldn't want to make them look poetic. They are news quotes.
"The polls of December mean nothing"
Jana Sinram: Do you think Trump actually stands a chance to become the next presidential candidate for the Republicans – or even president?
Hart Seely: No. None. For reasons I cannot fathom, and never will, I think he is personally bound to self-immolate. As for his current popularity, the polls of December mean nothing. I have a personal litmus test for politics: My older sister. She watches Fox News all day, aside from the two hours she sets aside to listen to Rush Limbaugh. She lives and breathes the Republican Party line. I saw her yesterday and asked about Trump, and she just shook her head. That's all I need to know. If Trump can't carry my sister, he can't carry New Hampshire.
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