REGIONAL SEMIFINALS: 14-varnish vs. 7-syrupy

[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:

My Little Brother
by Stephen w. Cahill

My three year old brother is driving my mother
Completely clean out of her mind.
He dances on walls and repeatedly falls
And bumps on his little behind.

He woofs like a dog and he rolls like a hog
In all that he sees that is mucky.
And down by the lake, where resides an old drake,
He dives in declaring “Me ducky!”

So what does Mum do? She employs some voodoo,
(Which switches my tale to a fable)
By waving her palm with an “Alacazam!”
And now he’s a dining room table!

My brother’s so good, now he’s made out of wood,
However, there’s more I should say.
And that’s that I miss him.
And that’s why I kiss him and varnish his head every day.


Ode to Mud
by Stephanie Farrow

Sing we now in praise of mud!
Sing hey nonny nonny
     Sing hey! in praise of mud

For it swells upon the April rains
     To welcome the shovel and pail

Sing hey nonny nonny

For it squishes syrupy through the toes
     Slathering shinbone and navel and nose

Sing hey nonny no

For it tracks itself down stairs and up
      And blackens the porcelain tub

So sing we all in praise of mud!
Sing hey nonny nonny
     Sing hey! in praise of mud 



14-varnish vs. 7-syrupy: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 14-varnish (Stephen W. Cahill) (71%, 116 Votes)
  • 7-syrupy (Stephanie Farrow) (29%, 47 Votes)

Total Voters: 163

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GET OUT THE VOTE. The average pairing in Round 1 generated 154 votes. The average pairing in Round 2 generated 178 votes. Use the share buttons below and mention the madness wherever you go so that these poems reach more kids! And remember, encourage voting on EVERY MATCHUP, not just this one!

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  • Tiffany Strelitz

    Excited for this match up!!!!

  • Greg Pincus

    This is odd – I just finished my Syrupy Varnish collection yesterday. It’s like Ed is in my computer….

    This strikes me as the toughest word duo, but (no pressure) folks seem to be taking the tough words and making ‘em look easy.

    • Susan Taylor Brown

      Greg, you only say this is the toughest word duo because you haven’t seen what madness Ed has in mind for our match!

  • Kathryn Apel

    I think the tough words bring a certain something special to the poem. Don’t be put off by the toughies! (Although I must admit, I wasn’t sorry I didn’t get syrupy.)

  • Allan Wolf

    Oh, hard, schmard! I write poems about varnish and syrup ALL the time. I’ve got hundreds of ‘em.

    • Stephanie Farrow


  • Mary Lee

    Mud in both poems! Who would have guessed?!!?

  • Greg Pincus

    Poets your names are mud to me because you make it so hard to vote! I love the form you used, Stephanie, and join you in praise of mud. And Stephen gets points in my mind for is inspired use of “the word” not just in the poem but as the keystone for the payoff. As per usual, I’m stuck in voting limbo….

  • Allan Wolf

    I like Stephanie’s use of the classic. And Stephen’s “reveal” at the end, made me literally snort! Had I been drinking milk . . . well . . you get the picture.

    • Stephanie Farrow

      I can see the blurb on the jacket of your next book: “It’ll make you snort milk out your nose.” What kid could resist?

      • Allan Wolf


  • Renee LaTulippe

    Clever clever, one and all! But I rarely laugh out loud, and just now I did, so…

  • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

    Giggles and praise all around! It’s so hard to vote when each poem tickles a different part of me!

  • Pam

    Stehphen and Stephanie. The names themselves are good pairing. Hey nonny no, indeed for mud tracks on stairs. Hey nonny, in praise of this delightful poem! I enjoyed this one, Stephanie! Stephen, what a creative twist! You kiss and varnish brother wood. Ahh, nothing like brotherly love. Really great job to each of you!

  • Michele Krueger

    What is amazing to watch is the direction each poet goes in;
    Live poetry is riveting! Good luck, both!

    • April Halprin Wayland

      This is true edge-of-your-seat live poetry…all the blood, guts and glory ~

  • Bill

    As Stephen’s little brother… I’m not quite sure how to take this one?!?! :-)
    They’re both great poems. I’m biased of course so good luck bro!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Oh. Tricky. I had to keep coming back to this one.

  • Patricia Nozell

    Would never have guessed that both poets would include muck & mud with prompts of varnish & syrupy. Really thinking outside the box (er, make that pail)…

    Good luck to you both – this was a tough one to choose!

  • Stephanie Farrow

    Congrats, Stephen, and best of luck in the next round! It was great fun.

  • Angela Lagrou

    Great job to both of you! :)