Professor Publishes Poetry Compilation Addressing Trump Administration

Graphic of the the Flatman book cover. The cover is white with a black outline of a man with yellow hair. There are horizontal lines over the outline of the man.

Cheryl Caesar, Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, recently published a book, Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era, which is a compilation of 40 poems that explore the actions of the Trump administration from September 2018 to May 2019. It’s an artistic response to the emotions evoked within Caesar during the Trump presidency.

“The process of writing this book was cathartic and energizing, much in the same way that protesting at the capitol or moderating a Facebook group is cathartic,” Caesar said. “I had been carrying around this thought and this feeling for a long time that every time I saw and heard Trump I felt like I was being flattened.”

The process of writing this book was cathartic and energizing, much in the same way that protesting at the capitol or moderating a Facebook group is cathartic.

In addition to the humor-tinged commentary on the Trump administration, Caesar’s work addresses themes of oligarchy, democracy, and climate change. She has published several works with other collaborators, such as Mapping in Four Dimensions: Complexity and Mindfulness in a Community Project with MSU Associate Professor Joyce Meier. However, Flatman: Poems of Protest in the Trump Era marks Caesar’s first solo-published work. 

“Publishing solo was definitely a challenge because you don’t have that back-and-forth communication,” Caesar said. “I do share my work with my friends who are writers and I belong to writing groups, but ultimately I was responsible for Flatman.” 

Poetry is an artistic tool that Caesar has been drawn to her entire life, even while she was completing her undergraduate degree in English and American Literature at MSU. 

a woman with short hair wearing a black scarf and jacket reading a poem
Cheryl Caesar performing at an open mic at The Poetry Room in Lansing, Michigan. (Photo from The Poetry Room)

“I wrote poetry as a child and a teenager and I used to go to open mics when I was an undergrad,” she said. “Poetry is so condensed and I feel like it’s a sprint, so I can make it to the finish line and still rework it and be satisfied with it.”

After graduating from MSU, Caesar moved to Paris, France, where she completed her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (American/Russian) at the University of Paris La Sorbonne Nouvelle. 

“I think that anyone who wants to expand their mind and wants to be educated should live in another country and speak another language and experience another culture,” Caesar said. “That experience will just give you that deep-seated knowledge that your way is not the only way and it will allow you to look at your own culture as well.” 

I think that anyone who wants to expand their mind and wants to be educated should live in another country and speak another language and experience another culture. That experience will just give you that deep-seated knowledge that your way is not the only way and it will allow you to look at your own culture as well.

Caesar lived in France for 25 years before returning to Michigan in 2010 to join the faculty at MSU, where she teaches first-year writing courses. 

“First-year courses tend to have a wonderful mix of international and domestic students. They’re just arriving at MSU, so I can base the courses on intersections of culture and ask them to share the cultures they’re bringing to MSU while also discovering the new culture at MSU,” Caesar said. “I hope students learn in my course that they have a voice that is of value in the world.”

Caesar is part of the Transforming Teaching Through Reflective Writing Experience (TTRWE), Williamston Community Writers, and is a board member of Lansing Poetry Club.