REGIONAL FINALS: 4-toll vs. 11-stigma

[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:

For Those Who Toll the Bells
by Greg Pincus

Come hear the sad story of two poor, shy men
Who rang bells at a church in the shire.
The two men were twins though that fact was unknown
Since they lived out of sight in the spire.

The church bells were old, and their clappers were gone,
Yet the men loved their job heart and soul…
They would run towards the bells, always going face first:
The collisions would make the bells toll.

One day one poor brother was running full speed
When he slipped, and he tripped, then he fell!
He died on the ground, and though none knew his name,
All felt sure that his face rang a bell.

The very next hour, the other twin died,
Like his brother, his name known by none.
“But they sure are dead ringers,” the townspeople said…
So the brothers were buried as one.


by Mary Lee Hahn

The blooming field
is a purple sea.

you see rows.

Bent over, I focus
on each crocus.

For 50 millennia,
the three-part stigma —

threads of yellow,
golden glow,

–has been harvested by hand,
bloom by bloom, plant by plant.




4-toll vs. 11-stigma: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 4-toll (Greg Pincus) (50%, 210 Votes)
  • 11-stigma (Mary Lee Hahn) (50%, 209 Votes)

Total Voters: 419

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

    Ahhh, Mary Lee, I’m sure “stigma” will turn you into a rhymer. I mean the opportunities with enigma and… well… and… uh… I… I guess I shouldn’t give you any more hints. Good luck!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Good luck to you both! Looking forward to see what you come up with. You have both been writing outstanding poems.

  • jone

    Good luck to you both. It’s getting harder and harder to have to vote. Great words!

  • jone

    PS. I hope the writing doesn’t take its toll and that you won’t end up with a stigma.

    • Greg Pincus

      I have spent so long looking at what I’m writing and all the other poems posted here… and I’m worried the toll could be astigmatism!

  • Kathryn Apel

    I know know KNOW this is going to be another tough match-up. The teaser tweets tell me that! :)

  • Debbie L.

    Can’t wait to see what stigma your poems will toll on the all of us!

  • Amy LV

    Well, golly! I don’t think you two could have gone in more different directions! Greg – This cracked me up and the meter was ideal for such a funny story! Mary Lee – Exquisite! Must look up saffron!

    • Mary Lee

      If you’re interested in saffron harvest, here are some of the sites where I did research for my poem.

      • April Halprin Wayland

        Mary Lee…when I was in middle school, I took the name Saffron as my middle name because of Donovan’s song…

        Beautiful work. And what a glorious last two-word couplet.

  • Pam

    Hard, Hard, Hard to decide! Both are great! Greg, that’s quite some toll those brothers paid for love of job! Mary Lee, your poem is so beautiful!

  • Greg Pincus

    Oh, no! I knew this would happen in the Madness eventually – we’ve both written almost exactly the same poem!!!!!

    Well done, Mary Lee! An aromatic, tasty verse with echoes of history. Again, just like mine :-)

    • Ed DeCaria

      You’re killing me … with poem and comment.

    • Mary Lee

      Same poem…HA!

    • April Halprin Wayland

      Only Greg could come up with a funny poem for kids that is even funnier for us older kids. Wow. You, sir, are a master at your craft. Crafty you!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Greg, I don’t know how your rhyming mind does it again and again. I love how your poems tell a story.

    Mary Lee, I am awed with each poem of yours I read. With few words you captured the image perfectly! And you are killing with those last lines. Awesome poem.

    • Mary Lee

      Greg is an AMAZING rhymester (and oh, my, that punchline at the end!!!)

  • Ed DeCaria

    I’ve been pretty decisive with my votes so far in this tournament. I really have no idea who I’m going to vote for in this one. And I already read each of them 5-6 times before I even posted them!

    Good luck to you both — either of you would deserve a Final Four berth for these and prior entries.


  • Patricia Nozell

    I share your sentiments, Ed. This is truly a tough choice. Greg, I was laughing aloud at the end of your poem – the punch line was such a surprise. Mary Lee, such vivid imagery with so few words. Good luck to you both & thank you for sharing your awesome talents!

  • Doraine Bennett

    Ohhh. Too, too hard.

  • Dave

    This choice of two words presents an enigma.
    Whoever may lose, fear not! It’s no stigma.
    Both poems ring true. You’re both on a roll,
    Though trolling for votes may be taking a toll.

  • Dave Crawley

    This choice of two words presents an enigma.
    Whoever may lose, fear not! It’s no stigma.
    Both poems ring true. You’re both on a roll,
    Though trolling for votes may be taking a toll.

  • Michele Krueger

    Dave, loved your comment. Greg and Mary, congrats on your endurance and creativity during this competition! I enjoyed both of your submissions through each round. Best of luck!

  • Sally Odgers

    Clever endings on both these poems made me smile – that’s what I look for in verse. I think Saffron Harvest just pipped it for me because the sublime flow was there throughout.

  • Martha Rose

    WOW!!! Both of these were amazingly awesome!!! I LOVE BOTH OF THEM!!! Dave~~~I have a recipe for some GOOD cookies just ask Mary Lee!!!

  • Martha Rose

    OOPS~~~My Post should have READ GREG~~~I have a recipe for some good cookies………!!! MAJOR BRAIN FREEZE is what happens when you are SEVERELY SLEEP DEPRIVED!!! Please accept my apologies!!!

    • Greg Pincus

      Good cookies??!!! Apologies accepted!

  • Ed DeCaria


    Just cast my vote.
    Just saw the tally.
    Can’t help but wonder:
    Who’s gonna rally?

  • Julie Larios

    Votes as I write this are tied at 93 each – and it’s been close the whole time since the poems were posted. This one is going to do me in, seriously. Greg’s is clever – hits the rhyme and meter just right, and the wordplay made me laugh. Mary Lee’s economy and control of sound – not just the compression of the last lines into a minimum of syllables (which has been true of her other poems too: glory/understory, lot/rot, and now priceless/spice) but the other full rhymes and near-rhymes are handled quietly – that kind of subtlety takes a lot of work. I’ve voted, and I’ll have my eye on this match-up until the last tally!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Greg, your poem was awful (Clung. OUCH!) but also awfully good! A wonderful poem that I am sure will be loved by many.

    Mary Lee, your cold ‘stigma’ was painted so exotically that I had to go a second time expressly to find it… and even then I missed it! Well done.

    • Greg Pincus

      Thanks, Kat. I appreciate your use of awful! I felt, as I said elsewhere, that mine was a-peal-ing.

  • tanita

    This is truly the hardest match-up yet.

  • Stella

    Good luck to both of you!!! You two are amazing!!!

  • Linda Baie

    These words lead down mysterious paths. I am in awe of the stories you have told so beautifully. I hope Ed finds a way to make a book of these final entries. Good luck to you both!

    • Greg Pincus

      Yes, the paths are mysterious. I went a few different ways with “toll” first before I ended up with the above. On some other day, I probably wouldn’t have ended up in the same place. And while I can’t speak for Mary Lee, I can’t imagine she saw “stigma” and said “Oh, I’ll write a glorious poem about saffron!” And yet, there it is. I think looking at how all the poets have used their words is a big part of the fun for me: the inventiveness is fantastic and inspiring.

  • Kathy Ellen Davis

    Well done to you both!
    Mary Lee, I am amazed at how you can pick the perfect words to paint an image for us. I hope you keep writing more poetry like this!

    And Greg, telling stories and punnin’ it up…I’m glad we didn’t go against each other this year, those are my favorite things to do too!

    Awesome job. Can’t wait to see how it plays out!

  • josie

    Has there ever been a tie? “Overtime” between these two would just delight all of us readers!

    • Ed DeCaria

      Not yet. But one contest was decided by one vote.

      The Official Rules call for a 3-hour overtime period in the instance of a tie.

      The overtime period would start shortly after the first voting period ended (within 15 minutes or so).

      • Greg Pincus

        Is that 15 minutes for a coin toss and a few commercials, plus poet hydration?

        • Ed DeCaria

          Should we change baskets? I can put the first poem second and second poem first to mix things up …

        • Kathryn Apel

          The voting period is definitely tough on the poets – from what I’ve experienced myself, and from what I’ve heard from others. You’ve done Well, Greg! Because you, too, had a quick turnaround from voting to writing last/this round, I think – right?

          Energy drink, anyone?

          • Greg Pincus

            Oh, I have no regrets, win or lose. It’s been a blast, and I love the challenge no matter the time frame.

            • Kathryn Apel

              Ditto. No regrets. And definitely a blast! So much fun, and so much fantastic poetry to inspire along the way.

          • Ed DeCaria

            In the last round, the Flight 2 matchups were extended an extra day so that they did not end on Saturday night due to slow traffic. So that’s why we had the immediate turnaround from vote ending to writing period going into Round 4.

          • Amy LV

            I have loved it too…but man, I’m more of an obsessive-compulsive-computer-screen-refresher than I would really like to admit! It’s been fantastic to watch these turnarounds, and to see poems grow from word seeds within hours. Kudos to Ed!

            • Kathryn Apel

              Giggle. For one split second I thought you said, ‘…see poems grow from weeds within hours.’ #Madness indeed! And Kudos to Ed. And voters and poets.

            • Amy LV

              ‘Want to share popcorn with me on the sidelines? I will buy a BIG box!

            • Kathryn Apel

              Definitely. We’ll share popcorn through the next few rounds. I’ll bring chocolate!

  • Stephen W Cahill

    OMG level pegging – 30 seconds left!!

  • Amy LV

    Oh my goodness! You both are fantastic, and it has been a pleasure to watch and cheer for this match. How wonderful to be able to root for two fabulous poems and two fabulous people. And what a lead-in to National Poetry Month! Congratulations to Mary Lee and to Greg!

  • Ed DeCaria

    Wow. It happened again!

    I took a screenshot with 3 seconds left. It was tied.

    Poll was closed exactly on time.

    Greg somehow snuck in a vote.


    Is this the most exciting thing to happen to kids’ poetry … ever?

    • Greg Pincus

      Wow. I had walk away for most of that. And I stayed away at the end cuz I knew I was going to refresh every five seconds. I am stunned, as I thought I was dead poetry meat. I’m happy to be moving on, but it seems a shame at the same time because I think Mary Lee’s four poems are the strongest collective bit of work in the event. It was exciting, though, no question about that.

  • josie

    Yes, thanks Ed, this has been a true gift that you have brought to us! Thanks for your efforts and organization. I was floored today to learn that this Poetry Madness is new and that your blog is fairly new as well – BRAVO!

  • Suz Blackaby

    Wow, Greg. Way to beat the buzzer!
    Step up and take a bow, Mary Lee. What a match-up!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Congrats to both of you. A fine match-up with two diverse poems.

    Mary Lee, I hope to see more of your exquisite words in the future. So glad to have found your here. *hugs*

  • Debbie L.

    Greg, I think it’s you against me next. I’m scared.

  • Renee LaTulippe

    What a game this has been! Congrats to both of you!

  • jone

    Wowee! That was close!Both excellent poems. Congrats.

  • Mary Lee

    Thank you everyone for your kind words! I had a boatload of fun with this contest, and I definitely don’t see this discrepancy of a few votes as a loss. This contest was a life-changer for me as a writer. Thank you, Ed, for this fun fun FUN opportunity to play in the sandbox of words with a bunch of other poets!!