Kakutani’s a Poet…and, Oh, She Let Us Know It

Michiko Kakutani seems to have taken a page from pal MoDo’s playbook. And not, um, a good one. In today’s Times, the feared-therefore-beloved/beloved-therefore-feared book critic reviews the latest effort, Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme, from Calvin Trillin. Who is—had you heard?—not only a prolific New Yorker writer, but also The Nation’s revered Deadline Poet (or, as he has it, “verse columnist”).

You can almost hear the conversation:

DOWD: Hey, Michi, I heard you’re reviewing Bud Trillin’s new book. Isn’t that, like, written in verse or something?
KAKUTANI: It sure is!
DOWD: Hey, you know what would be super clever and witty? If you write your review in verse!
KAKUTANI: But, MoDo, I don’t know…I mean, I know that’s something you’d do, but I’m not sure it’s something I should. I mean, I know I’ve written reviews in characters’ voices, and everything…but verse is something different. I don’t know if I’d be any good at rhyming…
DOWD: Michi, take your doubt—and work it out! Don’t question the impulse, just run with it!
KAKUTANI: Well, it’s worked for you. I guess I could try it…

Yeah. Thus, below, the results of the Kakutani’s efforts. Versed, or cursed? Judge for yourself:

In our nation’s hard times,
Trillin sought funny lines.
Some said he made mere frivolity
Out of real issues of polity.
But others toasted his wicked wit,
And gave him lots of Amazon hits.


Now the poet’s turned to the ’08 election,
Skewering the candidates for our delectation.
There was Rudy, McCain, Huckabee and Romney,
Obama, Edwards, Dodd and, of course, Hillary.
All of them tracked from Iowa to New Hampshire,
In caucuses and primaries from Des Moines to

Um, as far as we’re concerned: Sorry, Michi. We appreciate the creativity, and everything. But: while at rhyming you’re not a slob, perhaps you shouldn’t quit your day job.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.