THE FINAL FOUR: *confabulation vs. *defenestrate

r5 confabulation vs. defenestrate

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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.
  • 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:

Spring Break
by Karyn Linnell

You might think I’m a liar, maybe blame confabulation,
When I tell you all the details of my crazy spring vacation

We planned a quiet trip by bus, me and my cousin Mona
To the hot air balloon festival held in Arizona

To our surprise the bus was full of women in their eighties
One gave us both makeovers (We looked more like clowns than ladies)

We took a restroom break and things really went downhill
We ran into a circus on its way down to Brazil

They thought we were performers; they just spoke Portuguese
We found ourselves upon a plane despite our urgent pleas

In Rio de Janeiro we finally got away
We needed to get home but we had no way to pay

We were hired by a squid boat but a giant squid was tracking us
Then in the Gulf of Mexico the squid started attacking us

Me and Mona got away and crawled along the shoal
We were covered all in seaweed; they called animal control

When they saw that we were human, not some oceanic creature
We were taken to a shelter run by a Baptist preacher

We told the man our story and when we said “hot air”
And mentioned Arizona he said he’d take us there

In his hot air balloon shaped like a butterfly
We climbed aboard and soon we were all floating in the sky

We got to Arizona and found our tour bus
The same old ladies were on board; they all smiled at us.

We thought we could relax; we were ready for a snooze
When an old lady offered to give us both tattoos

I know you don’t believe me; even I think it’s surreal
But the shaky kitten on my arm reminds me it was real


The Ersatz Election
by Samuel Kent

Election day had reached its close at last.
The tension through the room was dense and strong.
Miss Tillis tallied every vote we’d cast,
but then, bewildered, uttered, “Something’s wrong…”

“Apologies to Jill and Angelo.
You ran a decent, dignified campaign,
but with a ballot cast for ‘I don’t know’,
it seems somebody’s chosen to abstain.”

“So as it stands, we’re tied at ten to ten.
Since none prevailed, determine what we’ll do:
Another vote, but risk this draw again?
Defenestrate the ballots and be through?”

The candidates retreated from the room,
to talk, debate, deliberate, discuss…
The classroom sat as silent as a tomb
’till their return, their choice revealed to us:

“We’ve reckoned that the undecided voice
should designate our winning nominee.
Empower them to make the outright choice
for leader of our class democracy.”

With glaring sneers and sinister disdain,
the students fussed, and cussed, and sussed to see
which milquetoast kid had managed to refrain,
and everyone deduced that it was me.

Accused, I rose, and sheepishly decried,
“You’re both my friends, and hence, I couldn’t choose.
It seems unfair that now I must decide,
which one of you shall win, and which should lose.”

Miss Tillis shushed the agitated class
which rankled from the words I had to say.
An understanding nod, she pried, “Alas,
who gets to be our president today?”

I muttered, “If it’s really up to me…
…then I elect…
…another candidate.”
And that is how our hamster came to be
the President of Classroom Two-Oh-Eight.


Public Vote (*confabulation vs. *defenestrate)
Final Results:
*confabulation vs. *defenestrate

Authlete Vote (ID Required)
Final Results:
*confabulation vs. *defenestrate
Classroom Vote (ID Required)
Final Results:
*confabulation vs. *defenestrate

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  • Ed DeCaria

    NOTE: Voting will continue through Monday at 1:30pm CDT to allow more classrooms to vote! The winner will still receive a word for The Finals on Monday evening.

  • Catherine Johnson

    Both fabulous! I didn’t see the hamster coming and I love all the marine vocab and fun story.

  • Michele Krueger

    bravo Both of you! Solid, entertaining, creative stories! Two winners here!

  • julie krantz

    Well-done, authletes–but hard to choose! Your poetic confabulation’s almost driving me to defenestration.

  • MMJT

    Hahaha! I loved Karyn’s poem!!

  • Ryan Stockton

    Karyn’s poem has the silliness running rampant through the entire thing, but Samuel’s has the completely unexpected punch-line at the end. It will be interesting to see which one resonates with the classrooms most. Congratulations to both of you on amazing poems!

  • Rinkrat7

    It seemed to me that Karyn’s poem had a better flow to the poem. Did you read it out loud? I found myself balking and hesitating on Samuel’s poem.

    • PoetGroupie

      Really? That’s actually makes no sense. Because Karyn’s meter was off in a multitude of places. Not sure how you were reading the poems out loud . . .

      • Rinkrat7

        It actually makes perfect sense. See Ed’s explanation below!

        • PoetGroupie

          I think you may have missed the point. Iambic pentameter actually flows well. That’s why Shakespeare used it. The rhythm of the iamb mimics the sound of the human heart; even Eminem raps in iamb. It’s the most accessible sort of meter to use as far as flow is concerned. It’s possible your lack of familiarity with poetic form is what caused your difficulty here.

      • Heatherbell

        I personally thought that Karyns flowed better as well. Hmm

    • Ed DeCaria

      That’s end-stopped iambic pentameter with an abab rhyme scheme for you. It actually scans perfectly when read as:

      eLECtion DAY had REACHED its CLOSE at LAST.
      The TENsion THROUGH the ROOM was DENSE and STRONG.

      and so on …

      • Rinkrat7

        I would never have read it that way…

      • CeeCee

        It’s hard not to vote for the poem the authorities tell you is perfect. And equally difficult to vote for the one that you are told is flawed. I’m wondering if providing that much information while the polls are still open is fair?

        • Mother Streusel

          I like this:
          People will tell you that writing in set forms is more demanding, and that it imposes a discipline, and that is all true. It does not automatically make for good poetry. Neither does writing in free verse (or outright prose poetry). Most good poets at some stage write extensively in forms, for the training it provides, just as most pianists practice scales or drummers practice rolls. None of that guarantees fine music. And so unfamiliar are the forms to many readers that even if you write in them, it can go unnoticed.

          So the absence of form can mean many things. It can mean the poet simply felt the poem had to be the way it is. It can mean he or she wanted to step aside from tradition (or perhaps claim to be in the modernist tradition). It can mean that the content or argument of the poem has primacy over the sound or musicality of it. It can mean that the poet depends more on simile and metaphor and originality of word-choice than on rhythm. There is no simple answer to your question, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth asking.

        • Samuel Kent

          I wonder the same, actually. I’m glad that people choose to comment, and I will argue that there’s no wrong opinion or feeling about any poem. I don’t know whether clout is an influencing factor in the vote. I suspect that if it does, then where it has the most impact would be in the authlete vote. That is, however, merely supposition.

    • Mother Streusel

      They are right…my meter is flawed…it’s probably my biggest weakness as a poet. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not ashamed of it either.
      I get caught up in the story and decide to fudge it so that I can use the words I want. Like hot air balloon.
      But I do have good rhythm, so even if my meter isn’t perfect, you have probably clued into the flow I felt while writing it. Like a song, the way I read my poems makes them work.
      Samuel’s meter is perfect and I had no problem reading it. I will confess I have always had a hard time with the iambic rhythm…especially in pentameter, (which means ten syllables, or five groups of two beats in case you didn’t know.) I had a teacher teaching it to an English class I was in and I was one of the last kids to “get it.” Sometimes I know iambic is “right” but I can have a hard time finding that particular flow. It was used by Shakespeare all the time, so I guess I should like it. ;)

      • Ed DeCaria

        Karyn, that your poems are immensely enjoyable even with some meter blips is testament to what a fantastic and natural storyteller you are. Keep up the great work!

        • Mother Streusel

          Thank you, that means a lot, especially coming from you!

      • Josh Close

        While it is good to get certain words into a poem disregarding the meter – in many cases, it isn’t too difficult to switch things around in order to make the meter work AND your word(s) work. Sometimes words just don’t fit good within the meter – but that’s the beauty of synonyms. If you simply HAVE to have a word or phrase in your poem/rhyming story – there are ways to alter the flow of the poem and still keep a good pace.

        I’m not saying your poem is bad because it doesn’t have a smooth meter – all I’m saying is that it is possible, and would likely be possible with your poem, to alter some words and maybe change up some sentences and tell the same story with a smooth meter – just have to work with it more. The poem itself is wonderful; great story – funny ending.

        While it may seem like children don’t pick up on the meter of a poem as much as they do the content – there is a reason why Dr. Seuss was the most prominent author in rhyming children’s stories, and Shel Silverstein was one of the most prominent in rhyming children’s poetry. The content of the poem draws the reader in, the meter gets them to keep reading.

        My opinion*

        • Mother Streusel

          I agree.
          I do think it important to mention that poetry is an art form. Any “rules” such as meter are there because of the consistently positive results that they seem to have. We teach them because they are helpful. However, when the rule itself becomes more important than the reason for its existence, then I think that is foolish. An analogy of this would be someone who enjoys a meal and then discovers that fresh ingredients weren’t used and then decides it didn’t taste good.

          I would also like to quietly mention that I had every intention of taking the time to craft a beautiful well-metered poem for this round. Unfortunately my time was hijacked by unexpected events, and I had to scramble very distractedly at the last minute. I was well aware that when I submitted my poem that it was a bit of a “hot mess.” That being said, I still like it. I think it is lively, a bit shocking, a lot of fun. Could it be better? I think probably most people, especially poets would say yes. And yet I still like it, flaws and all, just the way it is. It’s my Twiggy…defies common views of classic beauty, and I almost like it more because of it.

  • Laura H Coulter

    Great poems, everyone! Loved the silliness of Karyn’s poem and the fantastic twist on Samuel’s!

  • Mother Streusel

    Well…let me just say that I am super happy to be in this round with Samuel, who is one of the toughest competitors ever!! I’d like to complement his wit, consistency, talent and skill. He has a natural gift, but he also works hard to perfect it and it shows.

  • Quinette Cook

    I really enjoyed the story telling in both of these poems. I do have to say that when doing these longer poems with end rhymes it becomes a bit tricker for the authletes. For one thing, I’ve noticed that to tell the story the rhyme or meter or both can feel forced. Or that the poem may go on a bit too long… Personal taste.

    Karyn does a great job telling a story and this one was crazy from the get-go. What if this story had been written as a series of haiku? (What is the plural of haiku?) Maybe it wouldn’t have had to fight the rhyme/meter thing. Just a thought. Here is a fun book to check out: Brains For Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt.

    I felt Samuel’s poem was much stronger in the rhythm/meter category. Nice surprise ending.

    Voters are going to have a tuff choice.

    • Mother Streusel

      I haven’t seen that one, but I did look at Guyku, A Year of Haikus for Boys, and was super impressed.

  • MdawgMike

    Samuel, nice ending. Karyn, excellent tale to match your subject.

    • Mother Streusel


    • Samuel Kent

      Thank you so much!

  • DomD

    The use of meter in Samuel’s poem perfectly complemented the tension in the classroom, almost like a chilling bass setting the tone for the background music in a courtroom drama. It seems this feeling can be shared by anyone who has experienced classroom elections from 5th through 12th grade, which makes this too good not to vote for. So well done!!!

  • Debbie B. LaCroix

    Great job to both of you!

    • Mother Streusel


  • Elizabeth McBride

    What great poems, both of you! Karyn, I enjoyed the wild ride of image after image. Love the call to Animal Control for seaweed covered creatures! Sam, your development of the scenario through to the great conclusion was perfectly executed (oops – no pun intended for your word’s definition!). I believe I saw winning words incorporated from previous rounds too! Genius! Great work, both of you!

    • Mother Streusel

      Thanks Elizabeth!!!!

  • Jane Yolen

    I thought they both had some meter blips, but that Karyn’s poem told the most cohesive story, so voted that way (being a story lover as well as a poetry maven.) At least I think that’s why I chose it.–Jane

    • Mother Streusel

      I’m honored!

  • Mother Streusel

    Congratulations Samuel!! I’m very happy for you and enjoyed competing against you!

    • Samuel Kent

      Thank you so much, Karyn! And thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support.

  • Angie Kidd

    I think it’s great to remember that good poetry doesn’t have to rhyme or rhyme perfectly. Think Nikki Grimes. I’m often more impressed by poems that are lyrical and tell a good story or say something unique than poems with forced rhymes that don’t make sense. Congrats to both of you!

  • Mother Streusel

    I would actually like to get better at meter.
    Maybe there are other problems with my poetry, but that seems to be the one that is the most obvious.
    I have been thinking about how to do this. I am not sure that I am passionate enough about technical skill to take a class or study on my own.
    I was wondering if someone would like to be or could recommend a critique partner for me? It would have to be someone who is good with meter, generally likes my poems and sees good qualities despite their flaws, and thinks they probably would or already does like my personality.
    I am also open to joining a group.
    I definitely don’t want to put technical skill ahead of humor and fun and wit, but I’d like to grow to make my poems easier to read in general.

    • Ed DeCaria

      Karyn — the best advice that I can offer is to 1) read as much poetry as possible! and 2) check out Renee LaTulippe’s new “Lyrical Language Lab”. Renee — a successful March Madness Poetry veteran herself — designed this class to help good storytellers (like you!) learn and practice their poetic technique.

      A third suggestion, which isn’t comprehensive but it will at least help with meter, is to just force yourself to read your poems aloud as the words are written on the page. For metered/rhyming poems, the first 1-2 lines set the poem in motion rhythmically. And once it’s set, it shouldn’t break unless done deliberately for effect. So if the first few words are “There once was a man from Nantucket,” the words on the page dictate that they be read as -/–/–/- (where – is unstressed and / is stressed), the next lines must match (or extend) the pattern. So if the next line is “he didn’t like carrying around a bucket”, that breaks the meter right off the bat, because those words dictate that they be read as -/–/—/-/-. So better to change that to something like “he cringed at the sight of his bucket”, which keeps the -/–/–/- pattern of the first line.

      • Mother Streusel

        Thank you so much for the advice…super helpful. Especially that one tiny little comment that the other lines need to match the beginning. Hah, when I read “he didn’t like carrying around a bucket,” I was like, what’s wrong with that? Then I read the next line and it did flow much better. :) Any particular poets to read? Preferably funny kids poetry? I figure if I am not as in tune to meter as others, I might accidentally read poets who have bad meter and learn nothing. One of my all-time favorite and most read poets is Ogden Nash. I think he liked breaking rules.

        • Ed DeCaria

          See, this is why I can’t wait to make more headway on my POEMETRICS project. Because all you’d have to do is click a few buttons to list the Top 10 or Top 25 or Top 100 poets ranked by their “precision” score and off you’d go to find their books or online work. (It’s gonna happen, people — just wait. And when the time comes — participate.)

          I’d say the easiest place to start for well-metered funny kids’ poetry would be Jack Prelutsky. I would NOT start with Shel Silverstein, whose meter I’ve found to be rather “off” in a large percentage of his poems (though I still love many of them). But Jack usually doesn’t miss a beat.

          • Mother Streusel

            I love Jack.

  • Adam Drach

    I liked both of them, but I have to say, Loved your poem Sam. I vote for *defenestrate