What if you could turn Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric into a work of art that benefits Bernie Sanders? That’s what Krista Stout, a local letterpress printer, is up to. She’s composed and printed a series of poems from the controversial candidate’s speeches, and is selling them for $20 apiece. Half of the profits will benefit Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
The idea began percolating while Stout was at a bar, watching the Michigan primary results come in. Fellow patrons were talking and cheering for Sanders, making it difficult for Stout to hear Trump’s victory speech. The delay and the errors in the closed captioning further fractured her comprehension.
“I was just like, ‘This is fuckin’ performance art. It’s so bizarre. It’s so out there,’” she says. “And when you can only hear every fourth word he’s saying, it starts to sound really cool.”
By the time she decided to write the words down, the speech was over. Back at home, she stayed up until 4 a.m. poring over transcripts of Trump’s speeches online. From there, she says, the poetry wrote itself.
Thus far, Stout has posted five poems on her website; the titles alone are an indication of her clever and profound twist on Trump’s loathsome language: “It sounds crass,” “The other day in Ohio,” “You can keep your plan,” “So much everything,” “It’s enough,” and “OK. This is an act of love.” In addition to the poems, Stout has added a new page on her website (“I’m confused. What is this?”) to make it clear that she is not in any way endorsing Trump for president. She’s simply excising his words from speeches and rearranging them to create something beautiful in support of the candidate she really believes in.
“His platform is very appealing,” she says of Sanders. “Who he is as a person is really important to me. It’s the same way I feel about Obama. Bernie’s honest. He’s transparent. He’s not a phony. He’s consistent. I like his activism.”
During her spring break from nursing school last week, Stout began printing the poems in her garage on a treadle-powered Chandler & Price platen press from 1908.
“It was nice to have the luxury of time to do that, and to feel excited about a project,” says Stout, who took a serious interest in letterpress about 10 years ago. Due to her academic commitments, the mother of three hasn’t had as much time as she’d like to dedicate to the art lately, but she has kept a few custom clients, and prints CD and album covers for a U.K. record label.
If she could, Stout says she’d give all the profits from this project to the Sanders campaign, but the plates used in the letterpress process can be pricey. Still, passing on those contributions has been the most exciting part of selling the poems for her.
“I get the notice and I send some more money over to the Bernie campaign. That’s pretty great. I can’t really do that on my own, as much as I would like to.”
Stout is unsure how long she’ll keep up the poem writing and printing; it all depends on how the election plays out.
“I feel like Trump has to lose momentum at some point,” she says. “I don’t know how much longer it can go on. Maybe this project will turn into something else. If I had unlimited time, it would be super fun to put together a whole book of them.”