After months of arduous presidential campaigning, Tuesday was the big day: Elinor Lipman tweeted her 499th political poem.
On June 27, 2011, the celebrated comic novelist pledged to entertain her Twitter followers with a sardonic rhyme every day until the election. She ended up missing two for Yom Kippur, but that still makes hers the best-kept promise of the campaign season.
Reading over her tweets offers a doggerel trip back through some of the weirdest moments of this zany campaign:
Bit by penguin at the zoo,
what’s a candidate to do?
Soon the bird wrote in his blog,
“Newt tastes like an underdog.”
In August, just before the Democratic and Republican conventions, she published her tweets in a book called “Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes From the Political Circus” (Beacon, $9.95). But she’s been rhyming every day since up until the the new president was declared Tuesday.
Lipman was temporarily holed up at a friend’s place while engineers try to secure a dangling construction crane near her Manhattan apartment when I spoke with her by phone.
Q: What inspired you to begin this project?
A: I wrote one tweet about Andrew Cuomo the night he approved same-sex marriage, and the next morning, I thought, “You know, I love to write, I love to rhyme, and I’m a political junkie.” My goal in life is to take over when Calvin Trillin retires.
Q: What’s been your favorite response from a reader?
A: The day that Barney Frank announced that he would not be running again, I got an email from him saying that he was proud to be evoked in the style of Ogden Nash.
I serenade you, Barney Frank
Brilliant wonk & witty crank
You’ve had enuf. There’s no good will
But O what giant shoes to fill.
Q: Do you write these tweets ahead of time, or do you let the day’s events suggest the subject?
A: Out of the 497 I’ve written so far, only about two dozen were written the night before because it was so clear what ridiculous thing had happened — like when Herman Cain dropped out.
Too many women felt his prod
but Cain is now at peace with God
Take Gloria & go abroad
Then mind the proverb, “Spare the rod.”
Q: Do they come in a flash, or are they hard to compose?
A: Some of them come really easily. The hard part is deciding on the topic, especially on Saturday and Sunday. But once I decide, I enjoy writing the poem. “Mitt” rhymes with a lot. And so do “Cain” and “Newt.” And I love Michele Bachmann’s name. I even rhymed with “Blagojevich”:
Newt’s way ahead in every state.
So who will be his running mate?
For balance, no one sharp or rich.
I’m thinking Rod Blagojevich.
Q: Have there been times during the campaign when there was nothing funny to write about?
A: On occasion, I’ve done solemn poems — on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, or after the shootings in the movie theater in Colorado.
Q: Do the constraints of Twitter - just 140 characters — complicate the process?
A: Not at all. I kind of like it. After a couple of weeks, I could write a poem, paste it into the Twitter box, and rarely did I go over. And if I did, I would just tweak it, twitterize some of the words. Usually I was right in the groove. What I’ve had to do with this is distill a speech or a position down to its most ridiculous, lowest common denominator. Once in a while, I’ll say something that’s a little ruder than I am in real life. When I started this, my son said, “That’s what Twitter is, Mom. Don’t worry about being a sissy.”
Q: I know they’re all your children, but do you have a favorite tweet?
A: Miss Jameson the queen of porn,
Is proudly tooting Romney’s horn.
Tho it’s a love that’s unrequited,
His talk of jobs got her excited.
Elinor Lipman’sNov. 7 tweet:
O happy day, swing states came thru/ “Too close to call” turned brilliant blue/Our fondest wish has now came tru/Barack Obama, God bless you