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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.


  • Inequality February 1, 2001

    Lessons Drawn From the Marc Rich Pardon

    As proven by this pardon,
    Two facts of life prevail:
    The rich have got the money
    And everything's for sale.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Political Figures January 26, 2001

    Adieu (Sort of) to Bill Clinton

    We'd say goodbye to Clinton, Bill,
    Who always was a rascal, still
    Accomplished much, before he tripped
    (He couldn't keep his trousers zipped)
    And after, too. His gifts were great.
    A farewell toast we'd contemplate,
    Except for now we can't believe
    That Bill is really going to leave.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Executive Branch January 11, 2001

    On Passing Up Marc Racicot for Attorney General in Favor of John Ashcroft

    This Racicot seemed like Bush's sort of guy:
    Pro-life, he thought that killers ought to fry.
    Though right-wing to the core in many ways,
    He was, the Christian right said, soft on gays.
    They told Bush that he ought to give the nod
    To Ashcroft, who believes he speaks for God.
    "OK," said Bush. Though not perhaps so glad, he
    Bowed quickly to the wackos, like his daddy--
    Yes, like the Bush to whom we bid adieu.
    We now know what we have here: Lapdog II.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Political Figures January 5, 2001

    Silver Linings


    Now Ashcroft will decide who's on the bench.
    The civil rights division will retrench--
    Unless it finds that civil rights entails
    Some breaks at last for pure white Christian males.
    The jobs and housing efforts that depend
    On Justice will on Ashcroft's watch all end.
    And solemn friend-of-court briefs will be filed:
    "Abortion simply means to kill a child."
    One comfort lasts, as dreams of justice shatter:
    Ralph Nader said it really wouldn't matter.


    Gale Norton thinks there's no place you can spoil
    If what you do to it produces oil.
    She'd like to see no regulations left;
    She thinks controls on property is theft.
    Emissions? Who should monitor their flow?
    To her it's clear: the firm's own CEO.
    So drillers drill. Here's what Interior's got:
    A protégée of James (The Crackpot) Watt.
    Don't tear your hair and curse those who begat her:
    Remember: Nader said it wouldn't matter.

    Calvin Trillin

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  • Election 2000 December 7, 2000

    Shut It Down

    (Another Republican sea chantey)

    They all went down to stop Miami-Dade
    From making counts the judges had OK'd.
    Unlikely toughs, with ties and crisp white shirts,
    They went to hand Al Gore his just deserts.
    So, noisily, they jammed into the hall.
    Then Sweeney, from the House, began to call.

    Shut it down, shut it down, shut it down.
    The first machine vote's truly holy.
    Shut it down, shut it down, shut it down,
    With a heave-ho-ho and a bottle of Stoly.

    One congressman by whom they had been sent:
    DeLay in name, and also in intent.
    Prepared to knock a head or bust a snout
    To show what our democracy's about,
    They bumped some chests and maybe pulled some hair,
    And Sweeney's martial call stayed in the air:

    Shut it down, shut it down, shut it down.
    The rule of law is holy, too.
    Shut it down, shut it down, shut it down.
    With a heave-ho-ho and some microbrew.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Election 2000 November 30, 2000

    I’m Counting My Heart Out for You

    (Lyrics found on a table inside a state building
    in Miami-Dade County)

    I'm counting my heart out for you.
    The votes I am finding are few.
    We hear the mob right in the hallway heat up,
    They're talking of the chads that we might eat up.
    I hope this ends before we all get beat up.
    I'm looking for voters for you--
    Some blacks or a wandering Jew.
    There aren't enough new hanging chads to suit me.
    I hope the Cubans don't show up to shoot me.
    There doesn't seem much I can do,
    Still, I'm counting my heart out for you.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Regions and Countries November 27, 2000

    The Vietnam Peace

    The President has gone to Vietnam,
    A smallish country that we used to bomb
    But now would like to send our products to.
    And so our corporations take the view
    That if the country's ruling class has picked
    A form of rule that can be somewhat strict,
    That's up to them. And Clinton went to say
    That there is nothing standing in the way
    Of being friends with them forevermore.
    Remind me, please: Why did we fight that war?

    Calvin Trillin