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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.


  • Politics August 29, 2002

    Richard Perle: Whose Fault Is He?

    Consider kids who bullied Richard Perle--
    Those kids who said Perle threw just like a girl,
    Those kids who poked poor Perle to show how soft
    A mamma's boy could be, those kids who oft-
    Times pushed poor Richard down and could be heard
    Addressing him as Sissy, Wimp or Nerd.
    Those kids have got a lot to answer for,
    'Cause Richard Perle now wants to start a war.
    The message his demeanor gets across:
    He'll show those playground bullies who's the boss.
    He still looks soft, but when he writes or talks
    There is no tougher dude among the hawks.
    And he's got planes and ships and tanks and guns--
    All manned, of course, by other people's sons.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Political Figures August 15, 2002

    The Accidental Commoner

    Al Gore is a man of the people.
    At least, that's the case as we speak.
    The earth-toney Harvard elitist,
    Though gone, could return by next week.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Business August 1, 2002

    George W. Bush and Dick Cheney Lecture CEOs on Corporate Responsibility

    "Creative accounting" is something we hate.
    From now on your numbers will have to be straight.
    No taking of options for stock you contrive
    To dump when insiders can tell it will dive.
    And loans? If you want one, then go to the bank.
    These sweetheart loans stink! They're disgusting! They're rank!
    This type of behavior we strictly forbid.
    Just do as we say now, and not as we did.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Corporations July 18, 2002

    A Spirited Defense of George W. Bush Against Accusations That He Dumped His Harken Stock Because of Inside Information

    He says he had no clue the stock would tank.
    About the details he is still evasive.
    Though "on the board but clueless" could sound lame,
    With Bush, a clueless claim sounds quite persuasive.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Politics July 3, 2002

    On the Congressional Response to the ‘Under God’ Controversy

    They pledge allegiance to the thought
    That every politician ought
    To take a stand that's foursquare for the Lord.
    They think if they say, "God is great!
    Don't separate him from the state!"
    Election is the blessing he'll afford.

    Calvin Trillin

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  • Business June 27, 2002

    A Crisis of Faith Brought On by Martha Stewart

    Agnostic's what he was, had always been.
    He'd never prayed a prayer, confessed a sin.
    He's thinking, though, if Martha goes to jail,
    On Sundays henceforth he will never fail
    To be in church. In fact, forevermore,
    He'll be in synagogue the day before.
    It's not as if this man's the sort of pill
    Who wishes fellow human beings ill.
    But he's convinced: If Martha takes the fall,
    There is a God in heaven after all.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Business June 20, 2002

    In Martha Stewart’s Kitchen

    The camera pans across the room
    To see what she has made:
    An omelette or a spring bouquet
    Or just an inside trade.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Climate Change June 13, 2002

    Department of Earth Security

    The EPA cites chapter, and some verse,
    To show this warming's making matters worse.
    It's getting worse no matter how you score it.
    So here's the plan: They think we should ignore it.

    Calvin Trillin

  • 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