ROUND ONE: 1-carve vs. 16-nonconfrontational

[click image to view matchup in full screen in a new window.]

The Poets’ Challenge: Each poet is assigned a single word based on their bracket seed, ranging from 1 (intuitive) to 16 (seemingly impossible). Poets must write a kid-appropriate poem using the prompted word in under 36 hours. Once both final poems have been received, they will be pasted into the body of this post, and then the reader poll will be open for voting.

Voter Instructions: Read each poem as many times as you’d like. Then use the poll to express your preference. Votes are counted in real time and cannot be changed once entered. As a guideline for voting, consider the criteria on which the contestants on the cooking show “Chopped” are evaluated: presentation, taste, and creativity. Translated roughly into poetry terms, presentation might include technical aspects such as meter, rhyme, form/shape, etc.; taste might be the net effect — did the poem move you to laugh, cry, think, kill, etc.; and creativity might include the poet’s approach toward a certain subject, image evocation, clever wordplay, etc.

“This is awesome, where can I find more?”: All results and scheduled matchups, including a glance at the round-by-round writing windows and voting windows, are visible from the Live Scoreboard page. In addition, results will be tweeted from @edecaria as they become final.

Here are the poems:

One Figure Skater
by Melissa K.

I carve these numbers in the ice: a classic Figure “8”,
And then a “2” – I skate it twice – then “5”, then “3” – but wait!
A number “6” – the spin’s a chore (I injure myself slightly)
Then rally for a final “4”, and jeté, landing lightly.
That’s 822-5364. Please call! Don’t leave me lonely.
Write down my digits, call me up – quick! Here comes the Zamboni!


At 13, I Walk on Eggshells
by Susan Taylor Brown
More than the way your hands paint bruises the world can’t see
I fear your words, and the way they tattoo themselves in my brain
creating a chorus of put-downs that play in an endless loop,
reminding me of all I am not, in your eyes.

Your words are my only gift from you and I carry them close,
like the most precious of jewels. I can’t help myself.

In this house, nonconfrontational
is just another word for survival.



1-carve vs. 16-nonconfrontational: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 1-carve (Melissa K.) (36%, 76 Votes)
  • 16-nonconfrontational (Susan Taylor Brown) (64%, 133 Votes)

Total Voters: 209

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  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Oh my goodness, Ed. Nonconfrontational? Eeek! I’ll have carve out extra time for this one.

    • Ed DeCaria

      Yes, an emotionless six syllable word that is at odds with the very concept of childhood and adolescence. A perfect 16 seed, I think!

    • Kenn Nesbitt

      Oh, I would have killed for this word! It would be perfect for a double-dactyl or a McWhirtle!

      • Ed DeCaria

        As it happens, I have someone that I’d like to make disappear, so perhaps we could make arrangements for Round 2 should you move on …

        • Susan Taylor Brown

          Oh man, Kenn, I wish you could coach me through this. I was feeling pretty good about what I had and then I read some of the poems already posted and had to go eat some gingerbread in order to feel better. I’m not proficient in a double-dactyl yet and don’t even know what a McWhirtle is!

          Ed, please tell me it’s not me you want to make disappear. I’ll be good. Mostly. :)

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    okay, attempting my first Double Dactyl. This could be messy. Or fun. Or both.

  • Greg Pincus

    Go for both, Susan. Go for both!!!!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    I tried, Greg. I wrote a couple of really bad ones but then gave up and went with my personal strengths. I think I’ll try Double Dactyls again after I’ve had a double margarita. It might help bring out my lighter side.

  • Amy LV

    Go for it, Susan! I think your strategy is right on.

  • Dom D

    Wow – that was deep! Very moving poem, Susan. And in a different way, Melissa’s poem was also very moving! I had to go with the #16 here due to degree of difficulty and what it made me feel, but if there is a consolation prize, I hope Melissa gets extra credit for voluntarily using Zamboni!

  • Melissa Kelley

    Dom D – I love the Zamboni – the word itself is poetry!

    Susan, whatever the outcome of this “bracket”, if you are ever in Seattle I’ll gladly go with you for that double Margarita. By the end of this Madness, we’ll all deserve one!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Thanks Dom!
    Melissa, yes, I think a round of margaritas for just completing this first set is well deserved by all. Seattle is not that far CA! Good luck!

  • Jennifer

    Zamboni who doesn’t love a zamboni? I have to read this one to my six year old hockey playing son.

  • Stephanie Farrow

    Susan, So many kids will be able to relate to this poem. “Hands paint bruises”–my favorite. This is a poem to read over and over.

    Melissa, I don’t even like cold and ice and do my best to avoid them, but your poem made me feel like I was there and like it. Plus–how cool to be able to use that great word zamboni!

  • Ann Jacobus

    Awesome poem, Susan, (with a heck of a word). I’m also impressed with the use of both Zamboni AND jete, Melissa!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Stephanie and Ann thank you. And yes, isn’t Melissa made of awesome sauce with using Zamboni when she didn’t even have to? I have to admit, it’s a fun word to say.

  • Pam

    Two great poems, totally opposites. Susan, I’m glad you did what you know best. It made for great reading. Melissa, I googled zamboni and laughed out loud! Pretty clever, young lady!

  • Heidi Mordhorst

    Zambo-ni, zambo-ni, zam-zam-zamzam-zamzam-boni! Isn’t that a song by the Sugar Hill Gang? Great poem, Melissa, really surprising. Susan, yours suprised me in a whole different way and then yes, I realized you were just doing your usual cut-to-the-heart of things, powerfully.

  • Kathryn Apel

    It’s amazing what I’m learning in the tournament. Words that aren’t in my vocabulary/experience. Australia really is different to America! (Thank goodness for google, I say. Zamboni.) Two very clever poems – but I have to go with the heart and the hurt, as much as I love funny.

    • Ed DeCaria

      And we’re just getting started, Kat!

  • Greg Pincus

    Wow. I have been re-reading these trying to figure out how to vote for only one. I have decided there’s only one solution: run away and come back later :-)

  • Janet

    I am with you Greg! Two poems to savor. We have a Zamboni or two in my town.

  • laurasalas

    These were awesome! I love the idea of the girl skating her number into the ice, and the great, funny ending.

    Oh, but Susan, with that 16 seed and that haunting poem, I had to go with you.

  • Allan Wolf

    I am suffering from Zamboni-envy. Funny, that wasn’t even one of the official words, yet here we all all talking about it.

  •!/WriterRoss Pamela Ross (@WriterRoss)

    Truly found an emotional connection in both poems. Bravo to both poets. If you make me laugh or cry, I am yours. How ironic in that a poem celebrating non-confrontations, my heart was confronted by a visceral response to each work!

  • Carmela Martino

    Wow. Both such wonderful poems in such different ways.

  • Melissa Kelley

    Susan Taylor Brown, well-written and well deserved! I look forward to reading your next round’s Seed! My thanks to everyone who took the time to read and vote – and all the other poets who took the leap and entered. Such a wonderful contest, bringing all these new poems into the world… and making poetry fans where only hockey hooligans once existed. :)

    (Riding off into the sunset now – atop that big machine they use to clean the ice….)

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Thank you, Melissa. You were a very worthy opponent and I am still impressed with your use of Zamboni when you didn’t have to. :)

    To all, like Melissa, thank you to everyone who read and voted and cheered everyone on.

    And to Ed, the biggest thank you of all for pulling it all together for us.