“Memo to the Candidate: The Town Hall Meeting”

I discovered this poem last summer and was fortunate enough to catch up with Jim Barton so that he could introduce it in his own words:

“This poem was born during the 2008 Presidential primaries and the endless string of debates which were held by both parties.  Different venues afforded different styles and formats for the candidates, and I began to wonder what instructions a political advisor might give to his or her candidate before these staged debates.  I’ve always loved the fake “Down-home-I’m-just-one-of-you” shows, where, oftentimes the candidates sit on high stools with hand-held microphones and get personal with the audience.  I had a lot of fun with it.”


Memo to the Candidate: The Town Hall Meeting 

by: Jim Barton   

The first debate went well enough;
we had no great disaster.
Tonight, we’re going town hall style—
we’ll have to think much faster.
Be sure you wear your long black socks
and read up on the rules;
make sure your shoes are cleaned and shined—
tonight we sit on stools.

Our two opponents feel at ease
with any style or setting;
just memorize your talking points
and minimize the fretting.
Make sure to hold your microphone
chest-high, don’t act the fool;
don’t ever rest it on your lap—
tonight we sit on stools.

You’ll be in front of hungry eyes
which hope to find a flaw,
so no pre-program barbecue
or sloppy, dripping slaw.
Be sure that you speak properly;
they went to Ivy League schools.
For God’s sake, don’t say “Git ‘er done!”
Tonight we sit on stools.

Relax and do your homework;
I think we’ll do just fine.
Don’t stop for beer before you’re here,
no screw-top rot-gut wine.
This town hall show could make or break;
it might give us the tools
to take it all, so please don’t fall—
tonight we sit on stools!

Jim Barton’s poetry has won over 300 awards since 2006, including the Sybil Nash Abrams Award.  He is the author of one full-length collection, For the Animals Who Missed the Ark (2008, Plain View Press), and two chapbooks: At the Bird Museum (2009, Dancing Rabbit Press, winner of the Morris Chapbook Award) and Music (2010, Finishing Line Press).  He is a member of Poets Roundtable of Arkansas, the Poetry Society of Tennessee and the Mississippi Poetry Society, and he serves as National Convention Coordinator for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. He and his wife live in south Arkansas with the youngest two of their seven children and a demonic cat and her kitten.

One response

  1. Really fine. Thanks for sharing with us.

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