ROUND THREE: 6-conservative vs. 7-brandished

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Voter Instructions:

  • The countdown at the bottom of each pairing indicates how much time is left to vote.
    • When voting closes, timer will disappear.
  • Read both poems as many times as you like.
  • Mark the poem you like best by clicking the circle next to its name.
  • Press the “Vote” button to record your vote.
  • Votes are counted in real time and cannot be changed once entered.
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    • Classrooms should submit one vote as a class.
    • Students can then vote again individually from home.

Things to Consider in Making a Choice:

  • How well the poem incorporates the authlete’s assigned word.
  • Technical elements: meter, rhyme, form, shape, and other poetic standards.
  • Creativity: wordplay, imagery, unusual approach, etc.
  • Subtle elements that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Your overall response: emotional reaction such as admiration, tears, laughter, terror, or some indefinable feeling.

Here are the poems:

On The Eve Of The Equinox
By Mary Lee Hahn

On the eve of the equinox
we saw
two Cooper’s Hawks
quite modest

plumed in conservative browns.
We surprised one on the ground
mantling its prey, surrounded by down.

With a flare of wings
it caught the sharp edge
of the last winter wind
wheeled to the fence

and posed
feathers blowing
eying its mate above


Joseph – The World’s Best Hitter
By M. M. Socks

He waved it and shook it –
Joseph brandished his bat.
He warned, “I’m the world’s best hitter!
You better believe THAT!”

“C’mon, pitcher – throw me your best
And I’ll slam it towards the sun!
Are you scared? Chicken?”
Whizzz – Whoosh! – STRIKE ONE!

“Now, you got lucky on that one!
I never let THOSE pass through.
Bet you can’t do that again!”
Whizzz – Whoosh!! – STRIKE TWO!!

Joseph straightened his stance –
And without one inch of doubt,
He confidently smirked.
Whizzz – Whoosh!!! – YOU’RE OUT!!!


6-conservative vs. 7-brandished: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 6-conservative (Mary Lee Hahn) (48%, 244 Votes)
  • 7-brandished (M. M. Socks) (52%, 270 Votes)

Total Voters: 513

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  • Joe Mohr

    Beautiful, Mary. Very fun, Alvaro. Joseph could be me, but I NEVER struck out ;)

  • Ed DeCaria

    The more times I read Mary Lee’s poem the more intense the scene becomes.

    Alvaro, if you add another 12 stanzas extending the story from those four, I think you have yourself a book.

  • Quinette Cook

    I love the visuals of Mary Lee’s poems – haunting and maybe a bit romantic. Alvaro, I love Ed’s idea! I felt bad for poor Joseph.

  • Alvaro

    Don’t feel bad for Joseph. Nothing can bring him down. He smirks in the face of challenges. I felt like leaving YOU’RE OUT out of the poem because it doesn’t matter to Joseph.

  • Renee LaTulippe (@ReneeMLaTulippe)

    What a beautiful scene you paint, Mary Lee! I like knowing that this came to you while walking with your students. Alvaro, what Ed said. This is a real kid-pleaser! Nice work both of you!

  • Linda Boyden

    Definitely hard to choose, both are delightful in their own way. Well done!

  • Penny Klostermann

    Mary Lee, your description of the hawk predator is amazing. I see it clearly. Alvaro,baseball fans everywhere “get” this one. Nicely done.

  • Buffy Silverman

    Your cooper hawks are magnificent, Mary Lee. What a terrific and unexpected use of conservative. And this batter’s bluster is definitely a kid-pleaser.

  • Damon Dean

    How familiar Mary Lee…I watch almost every morning two hawks, a couple, in the pasture and on my fence. They are wonderful birds, and their voices fill the sky above us almost every day now. I’m enchanted by their firm confidence, which you seem to have pictured so well.
    Alvaro, I loved this poem…the defiance of certain ego, and the way the whole poem brandishes illusion of greatness. This is one where the poem is equal to the word.
    How do we vote at this stage? Nearly impossible.

  • Josh Close

    How is there nearly double the amount of voters for this matchup than the other matchups?

  • Gloson Teh

    Can’t vote. Too hard. :(

  • Elizabeth Brahy

    Two totally different styles, but both poets nail it. I think I have to come back to this one…

  • Mary Lee

    I’ve shared the story behind my poem elsewhere, so I thought I’d share it here.

    I got my word late on Tuesday night after a full day of teaching and 4 hours of parent conferences. I jotted down “a conservative guess” and fell asleep. I sweated bullets all day Wednesday while I taught, sneaking a few minutes of writing time in both my morning and afternoon language arts classes, but not really getting anywhere. To top it off, I had Environmental Club after school on Wednesday from 4:00-5:00. I decided that I needed a break from writing (and thinking about) my poem. In spite of the cold winterish wind, we went for a walk in our land lab, looking for signs of spring, then headed back behind the soccer field toward the community garden we share with the apartments behind our school. Halfway down the path, we looked over at the soccer field, and there was a Cooper’s Hawk, mantling it’s prey (probably a dove from the land lab, judging from all the feathers around it). We stopped to observe until it flew off. We walked on to and around the community garden, and on the way back, lo and behold, the hawk was on the fence of the land lab! We crept slowly and quietly up the path until we were quite close before it swooped away. In my notebook, I jotted down “conservative browns” and my poem was born. After all the children were delivered to their parents, I went up to my classroom and wrote my poem. Except for some minor tweaks, it was finished in an hour.

    I’m sharing this because no matter what happens with the votes, “receiving” and writing this poem was an AMAZING experience! It never would have happened if I hadn’t taken that walk…

  • Gloson Teh

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Mary Lee. Amazing things happen during walks!

  • Bill

    Another match that won’t be decided until the last vote:)

  • Joe Mohr

    Great story Mary Lee. I’m a huge fan of clearing my head with a walk.
    “All truly great thoughts (and poems, apparently) are conceived while walking.”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Alvaro

    yup – most of my ideas come during walks…. and sitting in church…. and taking a shower.

  • Quinette Cook

    For this competition. I let the word roll around in my head. Then make a few notes. And finally I would tuck a pen and notebook next to my pillow and slip into bed. (I was a little worried I might roll over and poke my eye out or wake up with marker all over my face, but thankfully, that didn’t happen.) If I had an idea during the night I would jot it down – and yes, it’s hard to write in the dark.

  • Robyn Hood Black

    Great poems. Like that spunky attitude brandished by Joseph.
    Mary Lee, I loved reading about how your poem came about. I was wondering what you were going to do with “conservative” – this is perfect and completely unexpected. We have Cooper’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks and kestrals. I am in awe of all of them. And in awe of your poem!

  • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

    “On the Eve of the Equinox” is just a gorgeous line. I want that hawk to fly right over Mary Lee’s redbud from last year. And at this moment, my son is at baseball practice, and I’m smiling away at this poem…connecting it to sitting in the sun and also “Casey at the Bat”! Congrats to both!

  • Catherine Johnson

    Congrats to both! You both aced it!

  • Quinette Cook

    This was a great match-up. I’m sad to see Mary Lee go, but also looking forward to reading what Alvaro will bring to the “Elite 8.”

  • Suz Blackaby

    What a match-up!
    See you next year, Mary Lee. ;)

  • Renee LaTulippe (@ReneeMLaTulippe)

    What a nail-biter this was. Congrats, Alvaro – see you in the next round!

  • Mary Lee

    Thank you, everyone, for your kind words about and support for my poems in #MM2013. I take my bow and leave the competition feeling much the same as I did last year: I’m (more than) a little relieved to be done with the stress, I am a (much) better writer, and I’m lucky (so very lucky) to be a part of this community of poets.