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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.


  • 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

  • Election 2000 November 16, 2000

    A Day in the Life of the Palm Beach County Recount

    While Bush says counting votes by hand's unfair,
    Gore gains--a bubbe here, a zayde there.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Science and Health November 10, 2000

    Rare Good News

    The Journal of Nutrition wrote about
    Some researchers who tested chocolate out.
    It may help stave off heart attacks, they claim.
    Red wine, we've known for years, can do the same.
    Without the need of any doctor's urging,
    I feel a healthy diet plan emerging.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Political Figures November 2, 2000

    Nader Voters: An Explanation

    They thought they'd vote the Democratic slate,
    But somehow felt they needed something more.
    They finally found a candidate who was
    More sanctimonious than Albert Gore.

    Calvin Trillin

  • Election 2000 October 26, 2000

    Whose Side’s Jesus On?

    Gore says he prays when crises loom.
    He asks just what would Jesus do.
    And then he does that very thing
    (If focus groups would do it too).

    So whose side's Jesus on, folks? Whose side's Jesus on?
    Who's got the Savior's brawn, folks? Yes, whose side's Jesus on?

    And Bush says faith-based treatment's best
    For those adrift or drug-addicted.
    Salvation's just for Christians, though.
    No Jews. Yes, heaven's still restricted.

    So whose side's Jesus on, folks? Yes, whose side's Jesus on?
    Who's got the Savior's brawn, folks? Yes, whose side's Jesus on?

    The other side, warns either side,
    Would of the Savior's blessings rob us.
    And Lieberman? Well, he can say
    That Jesus wouldn't work on Shabbes.

    So whose side's Jesus on, folks? Yes, whose side's Jesus on?
    The battle lines are drawn, folks. Yes, whose side's Jesus on?

    Calvin Trillin