REGIONAL FINALS: 4-plunge vs. 10-jerky

[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:

A Farm Dog’s Work
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

A farm dog’s work is full of fun.
Herd my children. Dig a hole.
Bark at sheep to watch them run.
A farm dog’s work is full of fun.
Cuddle cats in noontime sun.
Nibble kibble from my bowl.
A farm dog’s work is full of fun.
Herd my children. Dig a hole.

A farm dog’s work is full of play.
Learn a new game every week.
Help my master load up hay.
A farm dog’s work is full of play.
Chase a white-tailed deer away.
Plunge into an icy creek.
A farm dog’s work is full of play.
Learn a new game every week.


The First Lesson
by Debbie LaCroix

The one on the left or the one on the right?

My hands grip the wheel tight.

My foot slowly starts to push. . .

Forward… stop. Forward… stop. Forward……


Deep breath.

Tap, tap. Push. –Lurch–


Tap, tap…–lurch–

….SLAM. Screeeeeechhhhh.


Deep breath. Tap, tap, slow…ly…


This jerky ride is just the beginning.

Soon I’ll take to the road, and then your real worries begin.



4-plunge vs. 10-jerky: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 4-plunge (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater) (49%, 181 Votes)
  • 10-jerky (Debbie LaCroix) (51%, 190 Votes)

Total Voters: 371

Loading ... Loading ...

GET OUT THE VOTE. The average pairing in Round 1 generated 154 votes. The average pairing in Round 2 generated 178 votes. The average pairing in Round 3 generated 224 votes. A nice trend! 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!

Like it? Share it!

Like me? Subscribe to TKT!

  • Greg Pincus

    Jerky! It’s got a K sound so it makes me laugh, but boy am I glad that is not my word. I reacted like a chef on the TV show Chopped – “really? You’re making me work with jerky???”

    Good luck to you both!

  • Amy LV

    Debbie – I have been thinking about beef jerky in your honor today! Happy writing!

    • Debbie L.

      LOL. Thanks! That was my first thought too, beef jerky. However, the poet in me will be recreating an experience, both one I’ve experienced as a child and as an adult. :-)

      • Amy LV

        Now I am completely curious. I cannot wait until morning to read them all…

      • April Halprin Wayland

        I learned to drive stick shift in our old farm jeep when I was six…so I completely relate to this poem as a child…and then, as a parent–oy!

  • Melinda Harvey

    Oooh, what a match up! We will be watching closely to se what you two poet extraorinaires come up with!

    • Amy LV

      That’s the fun part, isn’t it? I love the mystery and the wondering how everyone will use the chosen word….

  • jone

    This will be an amazing round. Take the plunge in writing and I hope the landing isn’t too jerky.

    • Amy LV

      Hee hee! Thank you, Jone. I love the way you used all of the words in your comments!

  • Kathryn Apel

    What fun! Plunge is such an appealing word. Energy & enthusiasm. And looking forward to reading your life-inspred jerky poem, Debbie. That’s a teaser! :)

    • Debbie L.

      All the time I spent producing news stories. You learn to write a teaser. Can’t give away the story, but don’t want them to turn the channel. :-D I hope my poem lives up to your expectations. I deviated from what I’ve been doing.

  • Debbie L.

    Amy! Can’t wait to read your poem in 2 hours, 18 minutes, and 15 seconds. :-D
    You are a worthy knight! (sorry, had to use the word knight, it’s a spelling word)

    • Amy LV

      Smile! You, my lady, are a worthy knight as well, and I’ve loved reading your poems throughout the tournament!

      • Debbie L.

        Thanks Amy! Shall we approach the dragon together? Valid and arm and arm to the very, bitter end?

  • Pam

    This farm dog would put Riley’s life to shame. Oh to be a farm dog! Love it, Amy! Debbie, this soooo reminds me of my first time behind the wheel. I remember screaming, “Stop Yelling…” too. Memories, like the corner…

    Really Great Debbie!

  • Debbie L.

    Love it Amy! Should be a Children’s song. :-)

    • Amy LV

      Debbie! I totally remember learning to drive, and your poem brought it all back! I think my parents were too afraid to teach me, so I went to a driving school, and my mom sent the teacher flowers when I passed. We’re three years away from this in our house, and so I have a bit of time to start saving for driving school…. What a fun use of ‘jerky.’

      • Debbie L.

        Thanks! I first was going to do a rollercoaster. I could feel the jerks as you get pulled up the track. But then I thought of my recent adult experience teaching my fav cousin to drive, and that brought back memories of me learning to drive. So I went with that. LOL.

        We need a tune for your poem. :-D

        • Amy LV

          It’s a triolet, a form I have only written in once before! Maybe we could ask the kids in Allan’s lunchroom to come up with a melody. ;)

          • Susan Taylor Brown

            Ooh, Amy, now I want to go try a triolet! Loved yours.

            • Amy LV

              Susan – Your pantoum made me write this triolet!

            • Debbie L.

              Feeling inferiour here. My poem is… a…. a…… it came from my soul?

            • Amy LV

              Experience and soul is where it’s at! And you captured so many of those real little verbs of driving. We live far out in the country, and I sometimes think about how our dogs have it made. This time I just wanted to try a form.

            • Susan Taylor Brown

              Well that’s cool, Amy!

          • Quinette Cook

            I’m so glad you shared the form with us. I was going to go try to figure it out. Now I don’t have to. I loved it.

            • Amy LV

              It’s a fun form to write. Our farm dogs keep on saying the same thing over and over, so why not do the same in their poem?!

          • April Halprin Wayland

            You are completely the farm dog, Amy. Makes me want to give you some jerky–good job, good dog!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Such vivid pictures in both of these poems. Great examples to share with students.

  • Suz Blackaby

    I am reliving my childhood!
    –Sliding backwards down Divisadero in a turquoise Corvair (my left leg trying to negotiate the clutch shakes a little bit just thinking about it)!
    –Zooming through two red lights on El Camino in a VW bus that only had one gear (stopping was not an option)!
    –Or my favorite paradigm for multitasking, sage advice from my older brother: Learn to downshift before you try to smoke while you’re driving.
    Thanks for the memories!
    What a racket in this bracket, folks.
    And I don’t suppose you word pickers have shown any mercy whatsoever…very actuarial of you (as in actuaries who pass their boards write the test for the next hapless class).
    Cheers all around!

  • Sally Odgers

    I loved Plunge. It caught the grasshopper mind of a dog so wonderfully well. And, on the whole, I much prefer rhymed metrical verse. I think, though, I was looking for a twist or cap at the end. Jerky reminded me of Certain Scary Times both learning to drive and teaching my teenagers. That one did have the twist cap. Great pieces though.

  • Mary Lee

    Loved sharing both of these with my students. They went for the driver’s ed poem, and I went for the farm dog!

  • Andrea

    Ok..I wasn’t THAT bad! don’t forget it was your idea to have my first lesson be in a mini van. =p

    • Debbie L.

      My neck still hurts! ;-) And that’s what a drive, a Mini Van. Someday you too may drive, a mini van.

  • Gabriel

    Both of these were such clever presentations.

    Thanks for naming the triolet form, Amy LV. You encouraged me to look it up and learn something.

    (And thanks, Ed, for showing me how to vote!)

    • Amy LV

      Gabriel – I am so glad we met through your blog! I love the name as much as the premise….

  • Shemp

    I have voted on all the previous rounds. The better poem was obvious each time. Until now.

  • Linda Baie

    The words are getting more challenging. I’m glad there are some wonderful poets like you both to do great things. Your poem, Amy, takes me back to a grandparents’ farm and a special black & white cattle dog named Puppy. And yours, Debbie, to teaching my own children to drive, not always a pleasant time, but definitely “jerky”. Thanks to both of you!

  • Mrs. Harvey’s Class

    You have both done a nice job! It’s hard to pick which one to vote for! You both had great effort! This match is as close as Debbie’s match with Mrs. Harvey…we will be watching with curiousity to see who wins. Good luck to both of you!

    • Debbie L.

      Thank you Mrs. Harvey’s Class! I love that you are enjoying poetry. I would love to see some that you come up with as a class.

    • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

      Yes! Thank you! You are lucky to have a teacher that loves poetry so much! Happy almost National Poetry Month!

  • Jeanne Poland

    If you want to, you can compare this Rhupunt to the Triolet:
    I have written two poems called “New”. The first is in free verse and shows my feelings.
    The second calls for a set meter and rhyme. You can pick your favorite.
    After reading J. Patrick Lewis’ Rhupunt (Welsh) pattern, I have revised New:

    The Apple Store
    Where new is more
    It calls to me.

    Its memory: clouds;
    Its volume loud
    Too fast to see.

    The touch screen
    Jumps if you mean
    To scroll or choose.

    “Tween i-Tunes, books
    Or video
    You muse.

    So freeze that frame
    Arrest the game
    And search within.

    There’s more to life
    Than all that strife:
    A brand new spin.


    by Jeanne Poland

    • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

      Jeanne, That is a very neat form…and new to me! You capture well how technology overwhelms and too, the importance of slowing down. I will look this up and give it a whirl – thank you!

    • Debbie L.

      Cool! Great poem. :-)

  • Amy LV

    Many congratulations to you, Knight Debbie! I am excited to read your poem in the next round! Good game, new friend! (I will call you when my daughter is ready to drive.) Sleep tight! a.

    • Debbie L.

      Thank you so much Amy for being a galent knight! Your poetry is music. And I’m so glad to have had this experience with you. I had even posted on Facebook that I didn’t mind losing to you, as you are a fabulous poet. I hope we will have the opportunity again someday.

      • Amy LV

        Thank you, Debbie! Maybe we will meet at a conference someday. Or the potluck. Ed? Ed?

        • Debbie L.

          I’d like that!

        • Angela Lagrou

          LOL! Maybe you should call Debbie:)

  • Kathryn Apel

    Congrats Debbie. So laughing at Amy’s comment about getting you to teach her daughter to drive!

    Congrats Amy, too. Wonderful reading your words throughout. And glad to have connected on Twitter, too!

    • Debbie L.

      Thanks Kathyrn. LOL. Amy, you can hand her the poem, LOL. It’s scary teaching someone to drive. Have fun!

    • Amy LV

      I agree! I have new friends…that’s a win all around! a.

  • Angela Lagrou

    Debbie and Mrs.Vanderwater, whoahhhh! Another HUGE match! You both were so close to having the same amount of votes. GREAT poems to both of you… and good job! :)
    I love how both of you give good support to each other and don’t have a bad sport if you loose(or win). Cograts Debbie and good job Mrs.Vanderwater.

    • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

      Angela, You have been such a good and loyal supporter of this competition. I am wondering if you might have a few poems that you might like to share on The Poem Farm? Just check in with Mrs. Harvey, and let me know if your class would like to do a poetry peek into some neat poetry work your class is doing! Happy reading – new words revealed tonight. Did you know that we got to choose the words for the Final 4 poets? It was quite a list, but I chose the words that I would like writing from best! a.

  • Debbie L.

    Thanks Angela. You made my day. :-D