ROUND TWO: 7-irritation vs. 15-variables

Click here for authlete instructions.

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.
  • You can only vote once from a given IP address.
    • 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:

The Oyster & the Jellyfish
By Marcus Ewert

My heart’s a big aquarium in which two creatures dwell:
A limp and squishy jellyfish; an oyster wrapped in shell.
The first’s so soft and graceful that you can’t believe your eyes –
The lengths it goes, when it’s upset, to sting and paralyze!

My oyster, on the other hand, has no defense for pain,
Though even sand can hurt him – just one microscopic grain!
His one recourse is POETRY, when troubled waters swirl:
With art applied in layers, irritation turns to pearl.


Science Fair Project
By Eric Ode

I thought I’d win a ribbon and my work would be rewarded.
My research, clearly cataloged, my variables, recorded;
I proudly set my project with the other kids’ displays—
the vinegar volcanoes and the cardboard hamster maze.
I waited for my trophy, feeling confident and grand.
And that’s about the time when things got slightly out of hand.
Now my teacher’s looking troubled, and I bet she’s holding grudges.
My project ate my tri-fold and then seven of the judges.


7-irritation vs. 15-variables: Which Poem Did You Prefer?

  • 7-irritation (Marcus Ewert) (52%, 177 Votes)
  • 15-variables (Eric Ode) (48%, 164 Votes)

Total Voters: 341

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  • Quinette Cook

    Well written, well played. I love the voice in Marcus’ poem and the unidentified monster in Eric’s. I enjoyed reading these out loud (several times each) before making my final decision. Good luck to both of you.

  • Renee LaTulippe (@ReneeMLaTulippe)

    Both really fun to read aloud. You guys got rhythm! This was a tough choice – it’s a tie. :)

  • Ed DeCaria

    This is simply a classic battle between heart and humor. I have no idea which I’m going to vote for, nor how the vote is going to look when I do. I love both of these, so for now I’m content just reading and letting myself react to the words.

    Marcus and Eric — thank you for making this such a difficult choice for all of the right reasons.

  • Penny Klostermann

    This should be the finals!!! Holy Cow…these are incredible! How does one choose?

  • Heidi

    Now this is what we’re talkin’ about, guys. Both technically almost perfect, both gripping, both shining examples of how rhymed verse can lift a good concept to glory. Again, so glad I have two IP addresses to work with….

  • Matt Forrest Esenwine

    Wow – this one is tough! Great job, guys…definitely requires more than a couple of red-throughs.

  • Matt Forrest Esenwine


  • Debbie LaCroix

    Hard choice!!!! Way to go guys! You both are winners. :-) Too bad only one gets the title.

  • Bill

    Great poems, guys!

  • Robyn Hood Black

    I keep coming back. I will have to come back again. (These are both terrific!)

  • Stella Michel

    Wow! Love both of these. It’s a tough choice.

  • Lori Degman

    I love both of these – which to choose?!

  • Katya

    My son had a poetic response to “The Science Fair Project”:

    if only we were there
    to see this fabled day
    and to see the crazed animal
    that ate
    the science project

  • Marcus Ewert

    I *knew* Eric was gonna bring something totally great this round- and I was RIGHT!

    I love the humor in this: I literally GOL’ed- guffawed out loud – at the ending, which totally took me by surprise, yet was totally merited (=it didn’t feel like a trick ending in other words, just a very clever one).

    I also loved the concise yet thoroughly visual & evocative descriptions: ‘vinegar volcanoes,’ ‘cardboard hamster maze,’ etc. They totally built the whole setting in my mind: I could see the room etc. Plus, they were totally spot-on for a kids’ science fair, too, yet fresh and novel.

    And lastly (though I could go on) – I really loved the flawless meter and euphony- nothing jars me more than reading a poem that’s sailing along and then kerthunk! – blang!- murbleburbleburble goes the rhythm. None of that here.
    And also the whole thing came off totally informal and colloquial – which perfectly fit the character of the narrator. And no rhyme felt like a stretch.

    Now, don’t get me wrong – personally I’d **love** to stay in this competition a few more rounds- mostly because I want to keep having the chance to do the fun work that each round entails! BUT – “Science Fair Project” is a poem I’d be ok getting squashed by!


  • Laura Shovan

    Great job, both of you. Meter, concept — your poems both have it all. I loved the use of metaphor, Marcus. Eric, your poem made me laugh!

  • Buffy Silverman

    These two are wonderful! I’m in awe of the language of the Oyster and the Jellyfish. And I laughed aloud at the end of the Science Fair. How to decide? So many variables to weigh. Such irritation at having to choose just one.

  • Eric Ode

    Very well done, Marcus! From the outside looking in, I really appreciate that the voters are faced with such opposing pieces. As Ed said, heart vs. humor. Your contribution is brimming with heart, but it’s also wonderfully lyrical, imagery-filled and tightly constructed. You did yourself proud! :-)

  • Carrie Finison

    Marcus and Eric, you should both be proud. I really want to be able to vote for both of these!

  • angie breault

    This is one of the few times that I REALLY cannot decide which poem to vote for. They both have great meter, and they both moved me in different ways. I honestly cannot say that I like one better than the other. I have no idea how I’m going to decide this one. Awesome job to both of you!

  • angie breault

    This is one of the few times that I REALLY cannot decide which poem to vote for. Both of them have great meter, and they both moved me in different ways. I honestly cannot say that I like one better than the other. They are both wonderful, and I have no idea which one I’m going to vote for.This is by far the hardest decision I’ve had to make in this tournament. Awesome job to you both!

  • Susan Taylor Brown

    Oh I love these both so much! They are so well done. Hats off to you both, gentlemen.

  • Deborah Holt Williams

    I can see why this is a close one–both are delicious!

  • Ed DeCaria

    I’m back for the eighth time … still can’t do it. I don’t want either of you to be done writing in this event.

  • Robyn Hood Black

    I have circled back multiple times as well. Both poems are fantastic. Eric’s easy meter and killer last line (literally) are great, and the whole concept of Marcus’s (and that “art applied in layers” line)- so original. You’re both winners, whatever the score ends up saying.

  • Marcus Ewert

    @Ed – I don’t want either of Eric or I to be done with writing in this event either!

  • Marcus Ewert

    *either Eric or I


  • Linda Baie

    You’re right, Ed. (I saw the Facebook!) They’re both perfect. I have to confess, I almost went “eeny meeny miny moe” on this vote. Congratulations to you both for marvelous craft & beautifully kid-themed topics.

  • Catherine Johnson

    I just can’t choose yet, they are both fantastic! Too bad you can’t both go through.

  • Michel Krueger

    Nice work, guys!

  • laurasalas

    Wow–love the great meter on these. They’re both awesome, truly. In the end, I had to vote for “The Oyster and the Jellyfish,” because those first two lines just totally enchanted me. But it was a tough choice–no wonder y’all are neck and neck!

  • Laura Shovan

    Chewing my deleterious fingernails for you both…

  • Tabatha

    Love these! What a shame for either of you not to move on!

  • Cara Slavens

    Oceanography vs. volcanology. I’m learning more science here than I ever learned in school!

  • Donna

    I want neither Eric nor I to be done with…well, not I, I am done…well, I don’t want to be done neither…either! Either poem should win. Neither should lose! I’ve voted for neither so far. It’s either vote for neither or I will vote one and then either ask my husband nicely or tell him he has to vote for the either one…other one.

  • Allan Wolf

    I would hold either of these up as examples of spot-on rhythms. The words’ natural rhythms help each poem leap “trippingly off the tongue.” Meter is the easy part. It is simple math. A certain number (or measure) of beats. The hard part is to create a rhythm that rides smoothly (or inevitably) upon that solid meter. Both poets achieve that balance well. The result are two poems which are effortless to read. Both poems also create atmosphere through detail. There’s no filler. No cute throw-away interrupting clauses to water the experience down. In the end the choice becomes which one moves you the most? Which one changes you or elevates you more? And in this case, that final choice is dictated solely by each individual judge’s own baggage: what mood is he in? is that bean burrito sitting badly on her stomach? I hope whichever poet “loses” this match will remember this: There are no bad poems; there are only bad judges.

  • Ed DeCaria

    Holy crap, I just voted, and just saw the score. Wow. This is going to be interesting night. NOTE: If the site gives us problems again this evening as it did last night with the 16-subterfuge vs. 9-iconic matchup (btw, did you see the minute-by-minute vote log that I shared on FB?), I DO have the ability to trace the voting logs to determine the winner. I apologize in advance if last second votes cannot be cast as the system normalcy is restored. But the clock is sorta arbitrary anyways, so consider the “official” poll closing time to be “whenever Ed closes the poll, at or about the time indicated by the countdown.”

  • Josh Close

    I typically vote for humor over anything else, but this one was such a tough choice!

    I bet the voting tally is low on this one because so many people don’t want to vote on it, because it’s too hard to decide!

  • Dave Crawley

    Two great poems! Smooth and slick!
    Narrow margin. Tick,tick, tick!

  • Heidi Mordhorst

    Holy crap indeed. Ed, put up an instant poll: who votes that both these poems win and that both these poets stay in? After all, poets are more than a number, too!

    • Ed DeCaria

      I’m afraid this tournament is like The Highlander: there can be only one.

  • KatApel

    Allan, your interpretation of these poems was spot-on. In this case, I don’t think it’s bad judges – it’s just torn judges. Once I knew what a ‘try-fold’ was, I made perfect sense out of both these poems. Great to see such controlled poetry so creative!

  • Damon Dean

    I hate that you can’t both go on…great picture of the ‘fish tank’ Marcus. A pearl for sure of your heart.
    And Eric, it was laugh out loud with the last line. Like others said, perfect meter lets the mind run freely through thought and meaning.

  • KatApel

    Eep! Make that tri-fold – but it did try me out for a while there!!

  • Scott Breault

    You can say that again… ;)

  • Ed DeCaria

    Well that’s that. CONGRATULATIONS to Marcus Ewert, who reaches the Sweet Sixteen, and THANK YOU to Eric Ode, who goes out with a bang.

    If you think Eric deserves a consolation prize, cheer him up by buying his book Sea Star Wishes – Poems from the Coast, available April 2, 2013.

  • Laura Shovan

    See you on the court, Marcus! Congrats to both of you on a battle well-fought.

  • Penny Klostermann

    Congrats to both of us on your poems! I’ve read them several times…this is what MMPoetry is all about :•)

  • Penny Klostermann

    Both of YOU….spellcheck gets me every time :•/

  • Eric Ode

    Marcus, hearty congratulations, my friend! Just got home and was able to check the results. Well done! Here’s wishing you the best as the tournament moves on. I had a good time and appreciated the opportunity to “meet”.

  • Renee LaTulippe (@ReneeMLaTulippe)

    Excellent match, guys! Congrats to both of you, both winning poems. :)

  • Joanna

    This competition becomes more exciting by the day… so much talent! Well done, you both! And good luck with the next round, Marcus.

  • Lee Ann Brown

    Mark Ewart’s pearl is the one for me