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Calvin Trillin

Verse Columnist

Calvin Trillin, the author of Random House’s Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Election in Rhyme, is The Nation‘s “deadline poet.” He has been acclaimed in fields of writing that are remarkably diverse. As someone who has published solidly reported pieces in The New Yorker for forty years, he has been called “perhaps the finest reporter in America.” His wry commentary on the American scene and his books chronicling his adventures as a “happy eater” have earned him renown as “a classic American humorist.” His About Alice—a 2007 New York Times best seller that was hailed as “a miniature masterpiece”—followed two other best-selling memoirs, Remembering Denny and Messages from My Father.


  • Political Figures June 6, 2002

    Cheney’s Head: An Explanation

    One mystery I've tried to disentangle:
    Why Cheney's head is always at an angle.
    He tries to come on straight, and yet I can't
    Help notice that his head is at a slant.
    When Cheney's questioned on the Sunday shows,
    The Voice of Reason is his favorite pose.
    He drones in monotones. He never smiles--
    Explaining why some suspects don't need trials,
    Or why right now it simply stands to reason
    That criticizing Bush amounts to treason,
    Or which important precept it would spoil
    To know who wrote our policy on oil,
    Or why as CEO he wouldn't know
    What Halliburton's books were meant to show.
    And as he speaks I've kept a careful check
    On when his head's held crooked on his neck.
    The code is broken, after years of trying:
    He only cocks his head when he is lying.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Terrorism May 30, 2002

    Joie de Vivre in the Land of Color-Coded Terrorism Alerts

    I got up Monday feeling mellow:
    Expected red, but it was yellow.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Law May 23, 2002

    Dick Cheney’s Primer on the Constitution

    So what's it called if during war you criticize the President for any reason?
    And how long does this war go on (and this is where this theory's really pretty clever)?

    Calvin Trillin

  • Regions and Countries May 16, 2002

    A Solution at Last

    Likud says it does not anticipate
    That Palestinians will have a state.
    So they, in turn, are meant to stop this shrying,
    And try to make their peace with occupying.

    Calvin Trillin

  • World Leaders May 9, 2002

    A Short History of the French Presidential Election

    In Paris it began to look
    Like Jacques Chirac was just a crook,
    But voters voted for him when
    He ran against Le Pen again.
    Though graft is certainly a curse,
    They figured there are things far worse.

    Calvin Trillin

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  • Environment May 2, 2002

    The Saudis and Their Oil Rigs

    (Sung to the tune of "The Farmer and the Cowman" from Oklahoma!)

    The Saudis and their oil rigs are our friends.
    Oh, the Saudis and their oil rigs are our friends.
    They can bomb us when they please, we need gas for SUVs.
    We're infidels, but we can make amends.
    Petrobusiness pals must stick together.
    All the guzzlers' gas tanks must be filled.
    We'll protect the Saudis' border
    While they preach we should be killed.
    They teach their kids the Protocols of Zion.
    It's jail for women if their hair is showing.
    They say that we're corrupt and that we're wicked.
    We say, "Whatever. Keep that petrol flowing."
    Petrobusiness pals must stick together.
    All the guzzlers' gas tanks must be filled.
    We'll protect the Saudis' border
    While they preach we should be killed.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Political Figures April 18, 2002

    A Survey Offering Democrats Two Responses to the Return of Al Gore

    Al Gore is back:
          (1) Alas
          (2) Alack

    Calvin Trillin

  • Politics April 11, 2002

    Elizabeth Dole

    Get set again for Liddy Dole.
    She's back, to let the good times roll.
    She's entering another race,
    Her hair and diction all in place.
    (Her hair is even more precise
    Than that of Condoleezza Rice.)
    Her problem is that she's been cast
    As someone with a Beltway past.
    Although she's Carolina bred,
    She left her home to get ahead.
    And now they say her luggage tag
    Says DC--on a carpetbag.
    "But ahm from heah," she'll say to all.
    She'll say it in a Tarheel drawl.
    The drawl alone should do the trick,
    Unless she lays it on too thick--
    Unless the voters say, in candor,
    "We simply cannot understand her."

    Calvin Trillin

  • Regions and Countries April 4, 2002

    The Middle East Troubles: A Summary

    They give each other tit for tat.
    The next tat may get Arafat.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Politics March 28, 2002

    Nixon Library Woes

    The daughters, Trish and Julie, now aren't speaking.
    Without more dough, the roof will soon be leaking.
    It really isn't clear just who's in charge.
    Most tapes and papers still remain at large.
    The tapes may show, when they're where they belong,
    The Jews have caused these troubles all along.

    Calvin Trillin