ROUND ONE: 5-brittle vs. 12-monologue

[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 Rigorous Routine
by Kathy Ellen Davis

She took off in a sprint,
and started tumbling fast.
Cartwheel, round off, backflip,
into a split at last.

She stayed there for a second,
got up, and winced a little.
Then Grandma winked at me and said,
“Now who you callin’ brittle?”


by Jane Yolen
You think that this poem
is about a drone:
one person, one subject,
one long, dull,
a half-conversation
that one speaker hears,
listening hard with
ego-clogged ears.
But I think your easy
just misses.
a disease
that spreads
with kisses,
recorded in diaries,
set down in ink.
not what most folks



5-brittle vs. 12-monologue: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 5-brittle (Kathy Ellen Davis) (79%, 127 Votes)
  • 12-monologue (Jane Yolen) (21%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 160

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  • Michele Krueger

    The Rigorous Routine is Not by me. Please correct this.

    • Ed DeCaria

      Oops! Corrected.

  • Catherine Johnson

    These are great, this will be close!

  • Donna Martin

    I have the deepest respect and admiration for all of Ms. Yolen’s incredible books, but I had to vote for The Rigorous Routine because it made me bust out laughing! Congrats, Kathy, for holding your own against such a prolific poet!

  • Kathy Ellen Davis

    Great poem, Jane! I have to admit that I am really excited to be matched up against you in the Madness! I love your books and love your take on monologue too!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Kathy, you’ve done an awesome job under pressure. I’m an Aussie children’s writer, and so many times during our #pblitchat discussions, we hear the name Jane Yolen spoken in awe. (Which is why I have a fangirl moment whenever I stumble across your books in Australia, Jane. :P) These are two fantastic poems. But that last line, Kathy Ellen? It was cracking!

    • Kathy Ellen Davis

      Thanks Kathryn!
      Ask my family, they know I wish I could do that routine….and I like the idea of snappy, quick witted Grandmas.
      I plan to be one someday, a long time down the road :)

  • Allan Wolf

    Kathy Ellen Davis’ poem is like “New Kid on the Block,” only 60 years later. Well done. You totally had me.

    • Kathy Ellen Davis

      Thanks, Allan! My sister, when she read the poem, actually said she thought it was about her until the end.
      She is the more gymnastic one in the family, but she’s never been able to do a backflip. Or wink convincingly come to think of it.

  • Mary Lee

    Kathy, you stuck this one!

  • Quinette Cook

    These are both very good poems and very different from one another which made the voting difficult. Kathy’s was so funny and Jane’s so clever, but in the end it was the laugh that won me over.

    I have to say, I’m glad that it wasn’t me going up the wonderful (piano-bar-singing) Jane Yolen. :)

  • Ed DeCaria

    5-brittle comes through with a killer punchline that might just knock out a superstar in the first round!

    The 12-monologue poem was excellent. I think the direct contrast and comedown off of that punchline is hurting Jane here.

    Both poems are very enjoyable in their own right. A shame that one poet from each pairing must head home early. (But before you ask: I am NOT organizing a consolation bracket!)

  • Stephanie Farrow

    Maybe not a consolation bracket this time, Ed, but this is so popular you’ll have poets pummeling (recognize the word?) on the door demanding more than one tournament next year. Poor, Ed. A victim of your own success.

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Stephanie, I was just thinking the same thing. Everyone is going to want to play next year!

    Jane and Kathy, both great poems and it was tough to call. Congrats to Kathy for the win.

  • Heidi Mordhorst

    Ed’s observations are similar to mine about the effects of the two quite different words and of the order and maybe even the presentation on the webpage. I wonder how it would work if both poets wrote using the same word?

    • Ed DeCaria

      I thought about giving the same word to each poet, but quickly decided not to, for several reasons, the two most prominent ones (that I can recall immediately) being: 1) it would make it more competitive than I had intended, pitting poeTs against each other rather than poeMs, and 2) why limit myself to half as many word prompts???

      In its finest form, this contest is all about the words, their possibilities, and the poems that can be generated from them. The poeTs would just be the vehicles through which those words morph into something more than their raw characters, syllables, and stresses.

      That is why when you see me talking about the results of these matchups, I don’t use the poets’ names, I just use the words. “Kathy Ellen” isn’t beating “Jane”, rather “5-brittle” is beating “12-monologue”.

      If nothing else, it’s just more fun to think about it that way!

  • Tiffany Strelitz

    This is serious business!