ROUND ONE: 1-crush vs. 16-caramelizing

[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:

The Crush
by Jen Kelley

Here it comes – Aunt Esther’s crush
A hug so snug my guts will mush.

I wince and squirm to get away.
(Please let me live just one more day.)

There isn’t any air in here.
I smell beef soup and old cashmere.

When finally her grasp unclamps,
I’m left with throbbing ribcage cramps.


In the Ninth
by Sarah Wones Tomp

Swing, batter batter, swing
He’s throwing heat
Strike two, eyes sting
Swing, batter batter, swing
Bat finds ball – and Zing!
A caramelizing moment of sweet
Swing, batter batter, swing
He’s throwing heat



1-crush vs. 16-caramelizing: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 1-crush (Jen Kelley) (73%, 135 Votes)
  • 16-caramelizing (Sarah Wones Tomp) (27%, 51 Votes)

Total Voters: 186

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  • Sharry Wright

    Sarah! I love your poem! I’d say you got it just right!

  • Robyn Hood Black

    Great work, ladies! (And kudos to Sarah for coming up with an original way to use “caramelizing”.)

  • Ann Jacobus

    Beautiful rhythm, Sarah! (And I had a grandma like Aunt Esther).

  • Connie Wones

    Sarah, I loved the baseball lingo and the beat! You are throwing heat!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Kids will love The Crush, I’m sure! Just the right touch of irreverent bounce, Jen.
    Sarah – I was sure you were from UK… playing cricket. But San Diego? I’m now thinking baseball, right?

  • Channing Harris

    This was one of the hardest pairs to chose between. Both great. and crush is not so easy a word as one might think!

  • Greg Pincus

    I love that Jen didn’t go for the “easy” meaning of crush… and I love that baseball and caramelizing are in the same poem. Tough, tough pair to pick from!

  • suzanne santillan

    Nice original use for the word Sarah. I think we’ve all had an aunt like that Jen.

  • Virginia S. Loh

    You rock, Sarah!

  • Jen Kelley

    I had SO much fun with this! I wrote more than half a dozen CRUSH poems, but most of them were too long or just plain boring. I told Ed that I would come back and post a couple of the others I threw out before submitting my entry. They’re not great, and they’re not finished, but oh well.
    Here they are:

    I want to visit Gram today,
    but she lives very far away.

    Mom says it would take a flight,
    and then a drive all through the night.

    I’ll climb inside a box instead,
    marked FRAGILE, DO NOT CRUSH (in red).

    The snow fell really hard last
    And left our town a brilliant white.

    We built our igloo much to tall.
    We didn’t know that it would fall.

    Until I felt that heavy crush
    of melting snow and ice cold slush.

    HER CRUSH (aka – obvious)
    She’ll push me down and call me names.
    I somehow lose at all her games.

    She’s never, ever nice to me.
    But still, she never lets me be.

    Her friends tell me that I’m her crush.
    When she comes near, away I rush.

    If this is love, I want no part.
    A girl this mean must have no heart.

    • Dom D

      These are excellent Jen! Can’t wait to see what Rd 2 brings!

  • Ed DeCaria

    I enjoyed both of these. Thank you Jen and Sarah! And like Greg I love that caramelizing worked its way into a baseball scene. As a nod to Sarah, I will try to work some “16-seed” words into whatever baseball poems I write online this spring and summer …

  • Debra Schmidt

    Both poems captured childhood experiences with genuine feeling. Sarah, while reading your poem, I could almost feel that sweet “caramelizing moment” when bat hits ball. It brought back many memories.