As my brackets progress, things are getting more interesting.
In my original pairings, I tried to connect the poems I was matching up against each other, either thematically, by author, or even by a repeated element. So two Neruda odes went up against each other, Ode to Tomatoes and Ode to My Socks, and “Tomatoes” won all three times. But also, Wild Geese went up against The Tyger, as two poems about animals, though in very different ways (“Wild Geese” was the winner two out of three times). But now that we are moving from the first matches into the second round, there are some interesting pairings emerging, and I’m excited to see how they go. For example, in one class, Introduction to Poetry will have to go against Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, and in another class, the same bracket resulted in a match between Eating Poetry and Let Evening Come.
So far, some of the poems I guessed would be most popular have indeed been winners. Still I Rise has won in each class’s first round, and if I were betting, I’d bet it will go pretty far. A Red, Red Rose also won in the first round for all three classes, and I would bet it will advance at least once more too. But otherwise, so far I have been pleasantly surprised at what poems have been garnering votes. Love Sonnet XVII won in two out of three matches so far, for example, and Dover Beach has also won, both poems that I was concerned might be too “hard” for the students to really respond to, just from hearing it once. I even paired each with what I thought were more accessible poems, and still, they won.They seem to like rhyming poems, which I expected, but some strong free verse contenders are doing well, and they are choosing a mix of modern and more traditional as well.
As far as structuring the tournament itself, we’ve had to double up and do two matches each day. Spring Break happening in mid-March didn’t help, nor does our block schedule, and so our tournament will definitely stretch into April. I think the tournament would definitely have more momentum in a class that meets every day, and could more easily be accomplished in March. A teacher I know is doing a similar tournament, but with a theme, and using entire class periods to get the tournament accomplished in a few days. I think I will keep my current poem choices, but the idea of doing the tournament in consecutive classes might be a fun experiment for next year. As April is National Poetry Month, I feel good about stretching the tournament into April, and I’ll be repeating my extra credit offering from last year to have my students create public poetry during the month of April also.
Having those two experiences together for my students is just so exciting; I have a strong belief in the value of appreciating poetry and making it more part of our daily lives, and this pair of projects does that so well. There’s also something really lovely about getting to hear some beautiful poems read aloud every day, and I hope my students feel the same way.