Calvin Trillin

When Calvin Trillin was forced by health reason to cancel his Seattle reading a year ago, the race to the White House was still gathering steam. The delay has its benefits, as he’s now completed Dogfight: The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse (Random House, $16). His poems, mostly rhymed couplets, are chronological. After a 2008 prelude (“In stories from the capital we read/That now the GOP was close to dead”), we march through the long, eventful Republican primaries (“No longer was it fair to introduce/Michele [Bachmann] as ‘Sarah Palin minus moose’”) all the way to the debates and Election Day, which the final poem celebrates. There are prose interludes, too, as when Callista Gingrich hilariously tries to convince Newt she’s not dying of dengue fever—even as her husband is looking for a younger, non-dying wife number four. As a veteran writer in The New Yorker and beyond, Trillin has an eye for colorful scoundrels and buffoons; Romney an Obama are actually the book’s palest figures (one has no poetry to him, the other too much). Instead, it’s Bachmann, Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and company who most amuse the author. (In another prose pause, Santorum tells his kids of the Wii console, “It is Satan’s tool and is thus unclean to the touch.”) The Tea Party just makes Trillin irate, and Bill Clinton makes him nostalgic (see: colorful scoundrels, above). After Clinton’s rousing convention oratory, writes Trillin of Obama’s follow-up: “Upstaged? Well, yes, but by a speech with flair/And not by Eastwood and an empty chair.” BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m., 2012