REGIONAL SEMIFINALS: 6-scratched vs. 15-virtuoso

[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:

Sonnet: The Art of Music
by Kathryn Apel

To look its best, the cello lies, composed
within a velvet case – the lid snapped closed.
For if it’s played, the golden glow may wear.
Or worse! Show signs of use beyond repair.

The instrument is like a work of art
plucked from the master craftsman’s wooden heart,
then sanded, buffed and polished ’til it glows
and every fingerprint and blemish shows.

But draw the bow and feel the cello thrum,
feel it rumble heart and soul; a mellow hum
that softens silence, as its echo brings
a warmth and depth that flows from wood and strings.

You haven’t scratched the surface if you keep
your cello, or your talent, buried deep.


Lunchroom Virtuosos
by Allan Wolf

Vickie is a virtuoso
of the pickle flute.
She puckers on her piccolo
with trills and tweets and toots.

Victor is a virtuoso
of the juice box drum.
Steady carrot-sticking tempo,
boom and tap and thrum.

Val’s a virtuoso
of the ham-and-cheese guitar.
And I’m a virtuoso
of the broccoli sitar.

We’re brilliant virtuosos,
but our teacher says we’re rude.
It seems what we call “music,”
she calls, “Playing with your food.”



6-scratched vs. 15-virtuoso: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 6-scratched (Kathryn Apel) (57%, 166 Votes)
  • 15-virtuoso (Allan Wolf) (43%, 127 Votes)

Total Voters: 291

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GET OUT THE VOTE. The average pairing in Round 1 generated 154 votes. The average pairing in Round 2 generated 178 votes. 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!

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  • Allan Wolf

    OMGoodness! Are you honestly telling me that “Kat got Scratched?” Are you serious?

    • Madeline

      Am I the only person who found this comment funny? I guess we better get Kat a scratching post. ;)

  • Allan Wolf

    Does Ted Nugent know?

    • Greg Pincus

      He’s too busy practicing his guitar and crossbow virtuosity. I don’t think he knows. Maybe you should let him know and he can take a journey to the center of his mind and come vote?

      • Allan Wolf

        Greg, do you think The Motor City Madman can find a wireless connection in the center of his mind?

        • Greg Pincus

          No. Any other questions? I’ll be happy to answer them, too.

          • Allan Wolf

            I DO have a question Greg Pincus: What is the square root of a banana?

            • Greg Pincus

              I can’t answer that, since a marshmallow has no elbows.

  • Kathryn Apel

    Ha! i didn’t think of that, Allan. Panic not – I haven’t got my claws out. :)

  • April Halprin Wayland

    Ed…can we just sit back and watch Allan and Greg for awhile?

  • Kathryn Apel

    Eeep! I’m getting worried. Have tried to send my poem three times! And it has bounced back three times!! Hoping I *wasn’t* scratched!!! ;) #tryingagain

  • Greg Pincus

    You both used “thrum”!!! Need I say more? No. I needn’t. But I shall – you both nailed your poems. Hard. To. Pick. Must. Have. Coffee!

  • Ed DeCaria

    Seriously, BOTH of you used the word “thrum”? That was a Round 4 word in waiting.

  • Mary Lee

    Another pair that I’m going to have to stew on before I vote. I want Kathryn’s for my own heart and soul, but I want Allan’s for those brilliant virtuosos who could join in with the ones I oversee on cafeteria duty!

  • Debbie L.

    These are great! I love that you both are so musical with your words!

  • Patricia Nozell

    Oh, my! What brilliance! Will need to noodle on this one a bit, too. Music and poetry x 2, who knew!

  • Quinette Cook

    Oh, you two are making this so hard.

    Ed, how about letting me use this vote for “languish?” ;)

  • Quinette Cook

    Kathryn, The sonnet is beautiful with rich undertones – “…your talent, buried deep” – lovely.

    And Allen,
    I can hear children laughing and having fun in every single line. And isn’t that music to our ears?!

  • Renee LaTulippe

    Virtuoso performances from both. Bravi!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Ha! You didn’t disappoint, Allan. I expected the King of Funny to battle with wit. You did. A great poem. Together we can serenade the voters throughout the day.

    • Allan Wolf

      Isn’t Jerry Lewis technically “the king of funny?” No matter. Kat, it felt wonderful to recite a little iambic pentameter to my children this afternoon. We all really loved the final couplet. That’s one I wish I’d written myself. Well wrought and well thought. I’m reminded of my two young nephews who live in a straw bale house in the woods in Virginia. They have no plumbing. They don’t go to school. They are voracious readers, and they are always barefoot. And they play their beat up (and very scratched) cellos in their “front yard” which is a vast open field (some 50 acres in all) surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Wonderful Sonnet.

      • Kathryn Apel

        This is a beautiful story, Allan. I am so glad my poem reminded you of this – and that you shared it.

  • Sally Odgers

    Again, loved both these. The third verse of the cello poem just did it for me, though. I thought it perfection.

    • Kathryn Apel

      Given the time spent on that particular verse (and too the couplet) I am so glad! Perfection is a word the almost makes me purr. ;)

  • Michelle Brock

    Kat I love that you’ve said it so well in a sonnet.

  • Janet

    As the daughter of a virtuoso musician who adores creativity in kids, I find these two poems compelling…how almost-eerie that they are both about music and instruments and hidden talents. We need teachers and adults to remember to consider the outside of the box, even in the cafeteria. Bravo!!

    • Kathryn Apel

      Yes! I so agree. And not just in music.

  • Belinda Jordan

    Kat, its fantastic. I love the third verse as well. Wonderful.
    Allan, what a very clever play with words. Your poem reminds me of our school music teacher who is also this sort of clever/cheeky. Funny.

  • Amy LV

    I am truly a bit creeped out by the music theme in both and in the use of ‘thrum.’ There is some spooky-subconscious-poet-mind-meeting going on here in this round. Kathryn – I am moved by this poem, love imagining the creator of the cello as well as the musician. Allan, I could really see these guys and a juice box will never be the same.

    • Allan Wolf

      Amy, speaking of creepiness, I just finished writing an entire series of poems in the voice of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. And it’s written entirely in iambic pentameter. (The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic) To suddenly see iambic pentameter staring up at me in the middle of this fun little tournament was creepy indeed. Maybe Kat and I share a creative wormhole. I picture us each sitting up at night and suddenly Kat says, “Thrum!” And somehow I hear her and think the word “Thrum” had just come to me in my mind, but really there I sit connected to this person on the other side of the planet, our ears attached by a long invisible string and two magic Dixie cups. I wonder indeed if every poem we write somehow may exist in a different form in some parallel universe. Think of that, every little lonely poem is really the sister or brother to an infinite number of little poems. If you gathered them altogether it would look like a highschool reunion in the Star Wars bar.

      • Ed DeCaria

        You said all of that just so you could say “Star Wars”, didn’t you?

      • Freyia

        Wow, Allan. You made tears come to my eyes, a sense of overwhelming resonance of creation connecting. Awesome.

      • Kathryn Apel

        There are other similarities, too, I see – checking out your bio, Allan. Including the no TV. Go you!

      • Amy LV

        Wait a minute! Are there others in this group who do not have a television? (We don’t either…)

  • Hannah Ruth Wilde

    The torture of voting continues….

  • Amy LV

    Allan, I love your TITANIC book! And the cover of this month’s NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (just came in the mailbox today) is about the TITANIC too. And I just took out a library book on myths of the TITANIC. This whole idea of the little poems having family spread throughout the universe makes me very very happy. I think we should have a reunion of MADNESS people. Ed, do you cater?

    • Renee LaTulippe

      Ooh, have it in Italy! I’ll make pizza!

    • Ed DeCaria

      As your (and my) luck would have it, my wife is an accomplished chef (! How many people are coming to the reunion, so we can plan accordingly?

      • Amy LV

        I will be there! Allan – will you conduct the orchestra?

        • Allan Wolf

          Okay Amy, I will conduct. BYOK (Bring Your Own Kazoo).

  • Greg Pincus

    It’s funny – the very first Kidlitosphere Conference (that’s bloggers of the children’s/YA lit blogosphere) was in Chicago and started as a “hey, let’s have a pot luck!” idea. We’ll be having our 5th (in NYC) this September. So be careful what you joke about! The menu should be based on items mentioned in all the different poems. I’ll bring the carrot sticks. Someone else can spring for the lobster :-)

    • Ed DeCaria

      I guess I’m bringing frog legs … Charles Mund will bring nothing.

      • Kathryn Apel

        Snort! Good one…

    • Mary Lee

      I’ll bring a pinata for after dinner games!

    • Quinette Cook

      I guess that means I bring the pie!

  • JRPoulter

    Two VERY different poems – very hard choice!

  • Peter Taylor

    Absolutely loved both of these. Congratulations to you both.

  • Michele Krueger

    I’ll bring marshmallows and watermelon rinds!

  • Robyn Hood Black

    These poems were terrific, and congrats, Kathryn. I’ll bring something vegetarian to the potluck and invite Amy’s lobster from her earlier poem….

    • Amy LV

      Robyn – I am hiding the lobster in a tank in my closet. He will ONLY come out to sign autographs.

      • Kathryn Apel

        I did wonder if the lobster would brave the proceedings. Cap in hand? I have no foodie poem. Mayhaps I’ll bring damper… on a stick!

  • Allan Wolf

    Congrats Kat. See me now. Standing here. With a cut over my left eye. A bruise on my cheek. Missing a tooth or two. And smiling. Knock ‘em dead, girl. Huzzah!

  • Kathryn Apel

    Awww. Thanks, Allan. Your gap-toothed smile will be my inspiration.