ROUND TWO: 5-towering vs. 13-spliced

[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 Overgrown Garden
by Kathy Ellen Davis

When the King’s flower garden got way out of hand,
A royal decree was send out through the land.
“Seeking brave men to battle towering weeds:
The princess’s hand to the one who succeeds.”
Men tried pulling and yanking, but all of them failed.
Until one knight came along and simply exhaled.
One whiff of his breath sent those weeds to their death
and this story ends wonderfully well,
for Sir Halitosis and his new princess bride…
who lucky for her couldn’t smell. 


by Eric Ode

Cogs and rods, wheels and gears and levers;
I taped and spliced and stapled them with care.
Then, feeling rather confident and clever,
I marched him to my grade-school science fair.
The judges smiled. My robot was a winner!
I thought I’d place that trophy on a shelf.
But while my project won that first-place ribbon,
he says he wants to keep it for himself.



5-towering vs. 13-spliced: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 5-towering (Kathy Ellen Davis) (58%, 74 Votes)
  • 13-spliced (Eric Ode) (42%, 54 Votes)

Total Voters: 128

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GET OUT THE VOTE. The average pairing in Round 1 generated 154 votes. For Round 2, our goal is to DOUBLE the average vote total for all matchups compared to Round 1 … that’s 300+ votes! Use the share buttons below and mention the madness wherever you go so that these poems reach more kids!

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  • Ed DeCaria

    It took me a second read to pick up the meter in Eric’s, but once I got — his poem popped.

  • Eric Ode

    Excellent job, Kathy Ellen!

  • Kathy Ellen Davis

    Thank you Eric, you too!
    I LOVE that the robot keeps the ribbon at the end…great job with a tough word!

  • Darren Sardelli

    Eric – great poem! This is a tough matchup. Wish both of you the best!

  • Tabatha

    Love the ending of My Science Fair Project! Nice job, both of you.

  • Donna Smith

    Lucky for her…and him! Sir Halitosis…funny!
    Love the robot wanting to keep his prize!

  • Amy LV

    These both have that great surprise twist at the end – much fun, and a very tough call!

  • Kenn Nesbitt

    I thought there was an 8-line limit in rounds one and two. Was I wrong about this?

    • Ed DeCaria

      I just make the rules, I don’t enforce ‘em! The “Official Rules” offer some leniency on the actual number of “visual lines” as long as the number of “poetic lines” was <=8. In this case, you could argue that KED’s last four lines are really just another pair of lines that happened to be extra long. Either way, this madness must be a self-policing operation. I don’t read every poem as it comes in, so if there are issues like this I may not even know it until after time has expired, and then it would be a game of tracking down the authlete (<–see how smoothly that rolls off the keyboard?), them having to edit, re-send, etc.

      • Kathy Ellen Davis

        Hi Ed and everyone,

        I just wanted to say I didn’t mean to start anything with breaking my poem up the way I did.
        I actually cut it down quite a bit, and had each line as long as the last two in the beginning, but thought it was too much.
        I wanted the last lines to be longer so the ending felt a little more dragged out; the start is kind of rushing to the end and I wanted to settle into the ending.

        I was going to write them:

        One whiff of his breath sent those weeds to their death and this story ends wonderfully well,
        For Sir Halitosis and his new princess bride, who lucky for her couldn’t smell.

        But I don’t like reading them that way and thought other people may not like it either.
        (that’s also why death and bride don’t rhyme, not that rhyming always has to happen in a poem, but I wanted it to in mine)

        I know it’s easy for me to say that…. and that we all have our own opinions and perspectives, but I honestly thought I was sending in an 8 line poem that had the last two lines split up. I checked the rules and saw that they could be split up if need be….

        I take rules and expectations very seriously, and I’m glad there are restrictions…I think that makes it really fun and easier to concentrate on the creative task at hand when there are guidelines. I know that playing by the rules is part of every game, and would never try to cheat my way to anywhere.

        I’m sorry for the trouble this has caused.
        I have to admit I’m a bit sad that this whole thing can even be perceived as a breaking of the rules, since I would never do that and am not a dishonest person, but like I said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

        Regardless, this is a great way to get poetry on more people’s radar.

        Thank you everyone for your passion for poetry!
        I’m so glad all these poems are being written and that there is such an active community!

        • Susan Taylor Brown

          I think you took the spirit of Ed’s comment of how a poem could be read with “poetic lines” to heart and didn’t break any rules. I saw yours as long lines too, maybe because that’s the way I often write. I apologize if anything I might have said in the discussion made you think you were being accused of not following the rules. That wasn’t my intention. I just thought discussion about the topic was good for Ed’s plans for the future.

          And yay for so many people reading and writing and loving poetry. For a first time ever

          • Kathy Ellen Davis

            Thanks Susan,
            No worries, not offended, just wanted to state my case and join the discussion too.
            I agree discussion is always good…I start to worry when people don’t say anything :)

            This has been so fun!
            My family has started writing poetry and we are thinking of coming up with a weekly contest on my blog between my three siblings and I… I challenged my brother to get my name into a limerick, and he rhymed Kathy Ellen with Magellan! I feel like this is one of those really fun things that is going to spur other really fun things, and I’m glad to be a part of it :)

        • Ed DeCaria

          KED: This is not your issue at all, and I hope there is no controversy here.

          The original “Official Rules” stated plainly “8 lines maximum”.

          The moment that I realized that I could not effectively control the input was when I edited those rules to try to note a difference between “poetic lines” (a term I think I made up) and “visual lines”.

          Look at my poem Skinny, for example. That poem is 4 “poetic lines” long, but I won’t even both to count how many “visual lines” it is. Admittedly an extreme example, but as stated in the rules my intent is not to stifle creativity here, rather to establish some reasonable boundaries that will 1) encourage readership and sharing, and 2) offer some parity between paired poems.

          KED’s poem here is within the rules as I have described them. Also, it is not the only example of this in the tournament, or even this round. Quinette Cook’s poem using 13-deconstruct used 10 visual lines, but was arguably only 4 “poetic lines”.

          Anyways, sounds like everyone’s in agreement here, so let’s roll with it …


          • Susan Taylor Brown

            Whew, was afraid you were going to make me go stand in the corner or something.

        • Eric Ode

          Kathy Ellen, I was very concerned this conversation was going to leave you with ill feelings. Your poem is terrific and definitely deserves the win! There have been many posted since the beginning that exceeded 8 lines, and I’m left agreeing entirely with Ed where he speaks of the difference between visual and poetic lines. This is a good conversation to have and a perfect opportunity to iron out wrinkles, especially as I hope Ed chooses to continue this contest next year. (Assuming he hasn’t thrown himself off a bridge before this year’s madness is over!) :-)

          • Susan Taylor Brown

            Eric said what I was thinking much better than I managed to.

    • Eric Ode

      Thanks for asking about that, Kenn. My own poem desperately wanted to be longer than 8 lines. It nearly begs for a stanza about the creating of the robot – toaster parts and radio dials… I may, after I go down for the count here, rework this poem and create the piece it really wanted to be. As it is, I have no problem with Kathy Ellen’s being 9 lines. My poem wouldn’t have benefited from going 9 or even 10. It really wanted to be 12 or 16! Still, it’s maybe worth looking at for next year. There must be a way of ensuring everyone is working with the same restrictions without having to watch Ed pull his hair out in the process. :-)

      • Ed DeCaria

        Perhaps there should just be no length limit at all for any round?

        I figured with so many poems it would be too hard for readers to keep up, but that does not seem to be an issue. I also did not want to have one poet write a 32 line epic and another write a haiku.

        Sorry for any confusion or frustration.

        Whatever the result, Eric, I’m sure that everyone would love to see where you take your science fair project next!

        • Stephanie Farrow

          You made a good decision about the length, Ed. There are a lot of poems the first time round and it takes time to read them carefully. And then even more time to decide!

          Plus, it’s part of the exercise to be able to write according to guidelines. It’s a fun challenge.

          Also, it can be issue to try to keep up with both reading and writing. Unfortunately, Life has a way of wanting to nudge aside the Creative Stuff. Fie.

          • Susan Taylor Brown

            You’re right, Stephanie, in that learning to follow the rules is part of publishing.

            Maybe the question of length limits goes in that survey/poll/questionnaire I just know you’re going to have when this is all said done, Ed.

          • Eric Ode

            I absolutely agree, Stephanie. I appreciated all of the challenges; the assigned word, the writing time limit, the length limit… It makes for a fun and rewarding exercise!

      • Susan Taylor Brown

        Eric, I could totally see your poem as a much longer one. What a story it would tell!

        But I’m with you on the length thing. I’m one of those rule followers no matter what. If you tell me I can only use 8 lines, that’s all I’m going to use. My first poem would have been stronger with breaks in more places but I was determined to follow the rules. No telling how going over the suggested length limit might or might not affect the voting.

        Even if there was a first person filter, to check for length limits, trying to enforce it would make it tough for Ed to get things posted on time.

        Perhaps we writers (who will take an inch and turn it into a mile) need more stringent guidelines. :) In any event, I admire all the hard work that has gone into this fun event.

  • Heidi Mordhorst

    Ha! “The authlete”!
    This is one of those very tough, very even pairings, and the poems rather in a similar vein. Oof. Cleverness abounds! This time, though, the uppity robot edges Sir Halitosis for me–but only by a cog.

  • Eric Ode

    By the way, after all of this talk about length, let me stress that I have NO DOUBT Kathy Ellen could drop a line and still have the stronger poem here. Well done, KE! I’m looking forward to seeing where your poetry chops take you.

    • Kathy Ellen Davis

      Thanks, Eric.
      Sorry about the line confusion (see above).
      I’ve never really done any poetry before…most of my ideas go straight to picture book drafts
      but I love the idea of getting a little story into a poem.
      and writing something short, since my pb drafts tend to be long!
      (though this poem has already inspired a picture book draft!)

      Looks like you are living quite a fun and creative life!
      I’m glad to know it’s possible to make a living that way; as it is I feel lucky to have a fun and creative life, as well as a full time job that I like, but would love to just be writing, speaking, and crafting someday.

      Also, I’m glad that your family posted bail so the book of pirate poetry could come out :)

      • Eric Ode

        Thanks, Kathy Ellen! It’s a fun, fun life! I taught elementary for 12 years, and so it’s a treat for me to now visit schools and share assemblies and workshops. If you ever want someone to chat with and discuss the possibilities, feel free to get in touch! I’d look forward to it.

        BTW: My wife owns a health and nutrition store and has been in the industry for over 20 years. Your bio comment about eating healthy hits home!