Poetry is Berkeley's newest addition to the generally prosaic realm of the Candidate Statement. Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington's 2010 re-election statement consists entirely of a poem.
Worthington has long supported artists and funding for the arts, and wondered if using an art form might gain his City Council campaign support from people bored with politics as usual. He was recently inspired to use this novel approach to winning over voters by local musician and poet Avotcja. At her birthday party at La Pena, Worthington was impressed as poet after poet wove together personal tributes to Avotcja, intermingled with musical and political commentary on the major issues of the day.
Although an admitted amateur in comparison, he felt motivated to give it amtry.
The product of his efforts is now part of the official campaign record. Each four-line stanza covers two different topics. They range from the opening playful humor of:
"The Sierra Club says vote for me,
And who am I to disagree.”
To a serious, complex couplet on the details of the City budget:
“When concern for taxpayers was moribund,
I made the motion for the Rainy Day Fund.”
To a revelatory conclusion on the importance of keeping him on the City
“I reformed the Permit Process but it’s still not right,
so you need to keep me there on Tuesday night.”
Although the poem lacks a strict adherence to classic iambic pentameter, it
does follow a classic format. The poem consists of six quatrains.
(A quatrain is a stanza of four lines, usually rhyming.) The rhyming
couplets maintain an AABB form throughout.
With each rhymed couplet covering a new political topic, Worthington manages
to squeeze 15 different subjects all into a mere 200 words. These include
Environment, helping Seniors and Disabled, Peace, Labor, Consumer Rights,
Diversity, Crime Prevention, Small Businesses, Eco-passes, Tenants,
Northside, Southside, Permit Process reform, and his “Independent
For many years poet June Jordan taught a popular class called “Poetry for
the People", which has since been carried on by students. Worthington, who
was her friend and admirer, was so impressed by her combination of poetry
and politics, that he tried to get her to run for office. Now he offers
his own personal blend of politics and poetry. He expressed hopes that
the novelty of this stylistic approach might break through to appeal to
voters who may otherwise not pay attention. Indeed, the poem already
elicited very favorable responses on Facebook.
Will Worthington give up his day job, to go into full-time poetry
writing? Not likely, since that may be one of the very few jobs that pay
even less than the City Council. Will the voters of Berkeley think this is
a distraction from the seriousness of the campaign? Or will this approach
in fact get more voters to stop and think about the issues?
One poem is unlikely to make or break an election. And we do not know if it
will affect even one vote. But we do know that once again, Berkeley -- and
Berkeley's progressive leader Kriss Worthington -- is a trailblazer in a
different way of doing things.
Candidate Statement POEM, by Kriss Worthington
The Sierra Club says you should vote for me,
And who am I to disagree;
To non-profit groups I found money to give,
to help the seniors, poor, and disabled live;
For Peace, for Labor, for Consumer Rights,
I go to meetings most days and nights;
I practice real diversity, the MOST Asians,
Latinos, students and women were appointed by me;
When concern for taxpayers was moribund,
I made the motion for the Rainy Day Fund;
To stop violent crime I wrote a plan,
for ambassadors working with “ the Man”;
Small businesses I helped with parking and lease,
so you can come and shop here please;
I voted no on the bad BRT,
but lets get EcoPasses and Multimodal Connectivity;
As a tenant myself I know how it feels,
so I help lotsa tenants try for better deals.
I work long hours at very low pay,
to get Northside and Southside to have their say;
I love our people and love what I do;
An Independent Progressive Voice working for YOU
I reformed the permit process but it’s still not right,
so you need to keep me there on Tuesday night!
Kriss Worthington for City Council 2010
Endorse, Volunteer, Contribute at
firstname.lastname@example.org 548-8796, www.krissworthington.com
I will stake my reputation
that a fair investigation
will show that immigration
is truly good for our nation.
So I make this invitation
that we stop discrimination,
deportation and incarceration
and just STOP Arizonification.
We need activation and legislation
for fairness and legalization
With education on immigration
we can be a caring nation
and just STOP Arizonification.
ODE TO BARBARA LEE, at A Brand New Day
Barbara Lee speaks for WE
in the LGBT community.
She went to Mills College and to U.C.
where she triumphed over poverty.
She worked real hard in Dellums day
and learned the skills she uses today.
She moved to the State Assem-bl-y
to fight for you and me and equality.
Now in Congress, Barbara speaks for me
in books and papers and on TV.
She supports the bills that you want to see
and opposes ones that hurt you and me.
She supports an ENDA that includes the T
and letting us serve in the mil-i-tary.
George Bush giving in, was a sight to see
when she won money to fight AIDS internationally.
She's a founding member, you'll be glad to see
of the Congress Caucus for LGBT equality.
Now i never graduated with a PH.D
in english language or poetry
but I do know Barbara is the EPITOME
of the American Dream, successfully,
working for us ALL inclusively.
She's an honorary member of our family.
UNION NEGOTIATIONS NOW
The economy's not great
by the hand of fate
on this sad date
but it's time to NEGOTIATE.
I do not exaggerate
the time is late
Let me simply state
it's time to NEGOTIATE.
We must educate
we must pressure the state
but we can not wait
it's time to NEGOTIATE.