Donald Trump: Beat Poet

University of Portsmouth lecturers Olly Gruner and Tom Sykes review the latest scholarly study of America’s 45th President, Donald Trump. Prepare to be surprised by its revelations.

It’s been widely touted as the defining underdog story of our generation. From rich businessman to that rich businessman on TV, Donald Trump’s rise to power has been as meteoric as it has been inexplicable. No wonder, then, that a cottage industry of books, articles and essays has emerged in his corpulent wake, seeking to understand this most complex and elusive of personalities.

Interpretations have been diverse. Michael Wolff’s notorious exposé Fire and Fury introduced a deluded narcissist, surrounded by sycophants, social climbers, simpletons, and self-interested reactionaries. Offering a radically different take on America’s 45th president, Omarosa Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the White House reports on a demented, navel-gazing nincompoop – presiding over a White House staffed with smiling bootlickers, corrupt status seekers, and crypto-fascist ideologues – whose racist, misogynist outbursts fuel the nation’s swing to the far right. And then we have Bob Woodward’s insider account Fear: Trump in the White House – perhaps the most shocking and surprising of them all – which presents Trump as an idiot.

Image by Dan McCabe

To the swelling ranks of Trumpomena, we can now add J.J. Hall’s masterful tome, Me, Myself and Allen: Donald Trump, the Beat Years (Hall Press, £29.99). A literary historian by trade, Hall adds valuable insight into a period of the president’s career that remains neglected by most Trump scholars. From 1952 until 1960, the author notes, a ‘ginchy orange prophet’ could be found hanging out at San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore and Vesuvio Cafe, the Kettle of Fish in NYC and so many other Beat haunts, peddling his bop-metaphysical ruminations on self-love, selfish capital and ‘Heaven under the El’. Part memoir, part history, part critical analysis, Me, Myself and Allen is an ambitious, exhaustive chronicle of the fifties’ cultural vanguard. In this, the first excerpt to be published exclusively in Star & Crescent, Hall remembers hearing Trump recite his notorious poem ‘America’ for the first time at San Francisco’s Six Gallery. Hall’s annotated copy of the poem – published in its entirety below – is surely the most authoritative account we have of the words that made Trump the celebrated orator he is today.

It was the warm October of 1955 and me and Jack and Neal were planning to split for Mexico City. For two weeks now, we’d been bumming around Neal’s girl’s Frisco apartment, writing poetry under the influence of jazz, Thrill Pills and a suitcase full of Loco Gauge Bill Burroughs had smuggled out of Tangiers under his Panama Hat. Man, I was itching for new pastures. The 1949 Hudson sat in the driveway was full of gas, but  it looked sad in the evening sun, empty like the carcass of a promise unfulfilled, waiting for its heroes … if only Jack would finish his fifth helping of Apple pie and ice-cream we all could hit the road.

 The door slams and in walks Allen, raving about some new cat down from New York City, a ‘ginchy orange prophet’, Allen said. This guy Trump was the real deal; part salesman, part trickster, part metaphysical pig: tiny-handed and high, he’d been sermonizing all around the Big Apple ‘the most out there tragic, down-n-out, garbage pail, bop-wankery, weird, cool-aid, coca cola, crypto-guffery, toasted delirium, cosmic inverse Connecticut, derailed- rap’ he’d ever heard. Now, I’d known Allen a long time, but I’d never heard him get so heavy into anything as he was tonight. We knew then that Mexico would have to wait. Donald ‘the Donald’ Trump was reading at the Six Gallery that evening, and we would be there to vibe in his apocalyptic presence…



(by Donald J. Trump, Jr.)


I am King of NYC, King of TV, the King of you and the King of me, the Kingpin, the Kingmaker, the King of Kings,

King king king

a killer king forged in the merry mould of old King Cole,

a kool king channelling the kooky kroon of Nat King Cole,

a self-made genius spawned in the sewers of midtown Manhattan

– son of pinstripe, scion to the suspender snapped Huey Lewis-style hip back and thrust my impressive pecs in the crypto-orgasmic trance of a Cuban cigar –

King of Wall Street, King of the Beats, I’m King of the World

A bebop prophet penman of Ginsbergian feats

   Image by Louis Netter


I am absolutely kinging it, I tell you

Nobody does kinging better than me.[1]



See what we did there, the rhymes?

I’m the best at it

I build the best rhymes

Now I’m gonna build you something else

With my very stable literary genius.[2]


America I’ll build you a wall, and you will pay nothing

America, November 8, 2016: Lyin’ Ted, Low Energy Jeb, Crazy Bernie and Crooked Hillary in hobos’ threads dragging themselves through the D.C. slime trampled by me and you and 63 million beautiful apprentices

America, your weak and stupid liberals drooling in a thousand mental institutions, your Rushmore riven and ruined and beat –

But don’t worry, I will paint those faces with beautiful beatific smiles.

Oh yeah, I’ll do that.

This is true, America, you should have seen my inaugural speech

The mall, a beautiful sea of marching dreamers, beautiful karmic post-truth disciples; their beautiful blue eyes, their beautiful blue collars under the beautiful blue sky.

Even Obama was there, but he was not blue and he was not beautiful.


I love my own mind, nobody does my own mind better than me.

America let me be indecisive about that little fat squarejohn rocketeer tripping the holy mushroom cloud out of depraved Pyongyang.[3]

America when will you send your Mexicans back to Russia and your Chinese back to them shithole countries?

America when will you be worthy of your 63 million fascists?

When will you stop sending your eggs to India?

When will you look at yourself in the mirror?

For after all it is me who is perfect, not you, not yet… but soon

America I am undressing you!

When will you charge unclothed through Astral-Plain Manhattan with your manhood in your hands spraying yourself over the jazz-holy godheads of self-love, selfish capital and cell-phone-selfie-self-promotion?[4]

America when will you sanctify my hashtags?

When will you yogic-fly, sky-high on horse, yammering on yage, to an hysterical, half-naked business lunch on the psychedelic linoleum of northeast Delaware?

Image by Louis Netter

When will you recognize the great bardo state of Cincinnati?

That’s a deep deep state. Profound.

Very very profound.


Bannon[5] is in Tangiers now, I don’t think he’ll come back

He was my sunflower shaman, my daffodil deity, my gladioli guru

But now he’s a loser!

I’m trying to come to the point

I refuse to give up my obsession

America stop pushing I know what I’m doing!

I haven’t read the newspapers for months ‘cos every day one of my people goes on trial

America I feel sentimental about the fudge, the flip-flop, the u-turn, the zigzag and other ways you can dance to improvisational jazz

I love jazz. Love it. Love it. Love it.

America I was cruddy at real estate, I’m not sorry

I eat hamburgers every chance I get

Image by Louis Netter

I sit in my house for days and listen to a thousand tweets from the divine silicon garden of the electro-celestial cosmos

When I go to Moscow I never get drunk and always get laid

America I still haven’t told you what I did with Uncle Vlad after he came over here from Russia.

He ruffled my inflatable mustard hair, I stroked his shimmering Buddha-like pate

We shared reefer, Bennies and Johnnie Walker

Chased ballerina dames and jived KGB Daddy-Os,

By the end of that trip, man, we were closer than Jack and Neal.

As close, know what I mean?

America are you going to let your emotional life be run by the New York Times?

I’m obsessed by the New York Times

I howl at it every day, like a nicotine-coloured coyote with a corporate tax grievance against the forces of the Infinite.

America you’re fired.



[1] This opening stanza demonstrates Trump’s mastery of formal verse poetry and can be interpreted as a preçis of the man’s artistic trajectory thus far.

[2] It is perhaps this line, more than any other, that signals Trump’s revolutionary shift to a more disjointed, stream-of-consciousness, free-form literary style.

[3] Trump’s fascination for Eastern mysticism prompted him to ride the Magic Bus all the way to North Korea and become Kim Jong-un’s spiritual acolyte. The details of that relationship are hazy, but if the men did ever discuss the ascetic life, the dissolution of the ego and the peaceful interconnectedness of all nature, their subsequent actions would suggest they’ve forgotten all about it.

[4] This may be an allusion to a controversial deleted scene from Last Acquisition in Brooklyn (1988), Trump’s 30-hour-long experimental film that drew thematic connections between several literary obscenity trials of the 1960s and the excesses of the US financial sector in the 1980s.

[5] White supremacist demagogue and pioneer of postmodernist fiction, Steve ‘Bill Lee’ Bannon (1914-1997), was perhaps Trump’s closest ally until the men fell out over the hostile takeover of a Mexican peyote conglomerate they both owned significant shares in.

Illustrations by Louis Netter and Dan McCabe.