WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #15


Today begins the final week of preliminary bouts.

By the thinnest of margins (a single vote) Arwenwriter takes Bout #13. The voting for Bout #14 remains open until noon on Wednesday, August 6th.

A rundown of all the past and current matches, with their respective winners, can be found right HERE.

Here's a recap for anyone just stopping by for the first time. Back on May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING.  We received 167 entries in all! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of eight weeks. 

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why?  Because no one uses their real name…the only identification you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest.  The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.

Today is the fifteenth of sixteen bouts, with the final bout coming Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday.  And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.

Ready?



Here are this bout's two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the Romantic Poetry genre and weighing in at 500 words, please welcome to the ring……..A. Bard.


Title: When You Are Gone


I will be as Penelope,
Waiting with the patience of the universe.
Embroidering a veil and pulling out the stitches
So that there is always something
To occupy my hands.

I will sit by the fire and whisper
Prayers and memories and hopes.
For the guests who try to sweeten your departure,
I will offer feasts and more feasts.
It matters not that I taste only ashes.  
Penelope had the patience of the universe,
But I have only the patience of a woman.
And one day
I will have no more left.

I will take a ship to water.
Change my gold sandals for boots,
Silk robes for a cloak of wool.  
I will take a dagger,
Hide it behind my innocence
And conceal poison in the red of my lips.
I will read the constellations
Through the mist of a siren's song.
I have been slipping in between Scylla and Charybdis
My whole life, so one more time
Won't be difficult at all.
I will be a sailor until the sea grants me passage.

When my boat kisses the shores of another land,
I will step in the sand and burn sandalwood,
Calling luck to my side.
I will travel the land that has taken you,
Be there men with heads of dogs
Or women with wings of steel.
Stories old men tell won't scare me away.

If I must turn into nobody
To pass the watchful eye of the Cyclops,
I will leave my name at his doorstep.

Circe's eyes have no power over mine,
Even if her draughts taste like peaches and honey.
I will search the stables of the witch
And cry over souls lost to pleasure.
My smile will open doors closed to men
And my dagger will open doors closed to women.

I will ask heroes to teach me
The ways to talk to the gods
And burn offerings in the temples
Of Poseidon, who cradles your ship,
Of Aphrodite, who forged our bond,
Of Hermes, who aides in my trickery,
Of Athena, who blesses my mind,
Of Artemis, who guides my hand.
I will leave no temple untouched,
So you will never have to count your blessings.

But though gods may be fickle,
I will stand with the strength of Heracles.
I proclaim my loyalty into the four winds
And keep it on my banner.
May you know I seek you always.

I will walk until I reach the edge of the world,
Where waters fall into the abyss.
And by the white rock,
I will descend into the dark
That tastes like asphodels.
Below, I will cry your name
Until my voice is dry and my words are echoes.
Yet the answer to my prayers
Will leave me hollow.

I will turn away from the river Lethe
And taste from the waters of the Styx,
When I see your shadow
And the shadow that walks next to it.

For I will wait as Penelope,
But your way was never back
To Ithaca. 

************************************************************************


And in the other corner, representing the YA Fantasy genre with 494 words, let me introduce to you……….Writer22.

Walter Pritchett slept through the onslaught of the zombie apocalypse. He woke up with his face smashed against the school bus window, a long strand of saliva dangling from his mouth.  The clock above the driver’s seat said ten twenty six a.m. Last bell had been almost two hours ago. Seeing that the bus was already empty, he shrugged his backpack on, scanning his memory for a new excuse to give Mrs. Milliway, a wretched little woman with beady eyes and coffee breath.

“I have narcolepsy. It’s a real disease. Look it up.”

“You never brought us a doctor’s note.”

“My parents don’t believe in doctors. They’re Science Witnesses.”

“I think you mean Jehova’s Witnesses.”

In Walter’s view, first period P.E. was just one more class to underachieve in. At least if he were a girl, he could fake cramps. As it was, he’d end up with another referral, which meant detention, which meant insufficient time to play X box and eat cheetos.

The bus depot was deserted. Walter trudged through the seniors only parking lot where a group of football players staggered around a mini cooper, shaking it violently while a freshman girl screamed inside.

“High and skipping class before noon. But here on earth, I’m the loser,” he muttered to himself.

“For the love of god, somebody help me!”

Her voice sure did carry. Walter though she could try out for The Voice, even though the screams were a little pitchy. The jocks grunted and moaned every time the miniature car squeaked on its axis.

“Help me! Please!”

Unfortunately for her, Walter had taken a solemn vow of cowardice and refused to intervene in human affairs for any reason whatsoever if it might result in bodily harm to himself. Being five foot two and weighing eighty pounds as a sophomore guaranteed bodily harm in the event of an altercation. Thus, Walter tip toed around danger, avoided speaking up to bullies and never made obscene gestures.

“Don’t leave me here! Please! Everyone else is dead!”

That last part got Walter’s attention. Dead? Everyone?  He thought it more likely that this girl had gotten in over her head with a bunch of guys who injected steroids in their breakfast cereal.
“You should have just said no and made better choices,” Walter said, quoting the public service posters scattered throughout the school.

One of the seniors spun around to look at Walter. He bared his teeth and cocked his head to one side.

“Grr. Arrggh,” he said.

“Gazuntite,” Walter replied politely.

The jock staggered forward, gnashing his teeth. Walter looked more closely at the others and noticed they were all slack jawed and had red stains on their mouths. Walter swallowed nervously and began to back up, taking a mental inventory.

Black eyes. Check.

Strips of human flesh dangling from mouth. Check.

Apparent lack of upper brain stem function. (To be fair, they hadn’t had much of that before.) Check.

Zombies. Coming right at him.

************************************************************************


Enjoying the words of two talented writers is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #15.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing -- it’s the audience that gets clobbered!

44 comments

  1. A. Bard for me in this round. The poetry drew me in and held me till the end.

    Writer22 opened with a paragraph full of tell, which lost me right from the start. Then the light-hearted, smart-a**e approach didn't resonate with me. And, being a fan of good coffee, I don't associate 'coffee breath' with being wretched.

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  3. Let me try again. Had trouble comparing the two...it is difficult to compare poetry to prose. I vote for A.Bard because as a teacher (20 years) I know no child would be left on the bus, the bus driver has to make sure all students are off. I suggest the writer do some research on school policies.

    Secondly, if a girl is screaming like that you are just going to ignore it? Not get your cell phone out and call 911? At least run away if someone is screaming bloody murder? Sorry, just can't buy the gaping holes the in story.

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  4. A. Bard. Beautiful, beautiful poem. You had my vote even before I read the second entry. That first line - I will be as Penelope - drew me right in, and the rest held me till the very end. Excellent, excellent work!

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  5. Sorry, but I'm going to have to abstain this round. I couldn't tell you good poetry from bad poetry because I just don't GET poetry. And I can't vote for the second. I felt no compassion for the character and thought several things just didn't ring true (like being stuck on the bus to begin with). I also felt the first line was totally unneeded.

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  6. Hard to balance such two different genres! I'll have to go with Writer22, though. Long form poetry isn't my favorite. Sorry, A. Bard, but we can't please everyone.

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  7. First of all, I want to apologize to everyone that I've been so absent this year with the voting and critiquing. It's just been a very, very crazy summer, and all the non-necessaries have been falling to the wayside.
    I actually liked both these pieces. I love poetry, though I like it better when it rhymes; however, the Odyssean (is that a word?) references drew me right in, and I thought they worked well. It's interesting to me that many readers seemed to be bothered by the lack of compassion in #2; to me, I thought it added to the rather crazy humor, with an other-wordly being stuck on our emotionally intense world. It reminded me a bit of Douglas Adams.
    I vote for #1, but way to push the limits and think outside the box, both of you!

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  8. That is really difficult. The first one is so well written. But something about the humor in the second one really drew me in. I vote for Writer 22.

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  9. I vote Writer22, it made me laugh and that's never a bad thing.

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  10. Writer22 for me. The humor really did it for me.

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  11. A Bard has my vote.

    I'm with other commenters/voters on this one. Poetry and prose are very different forms of written expression. To try to decide between them is like trying to decide between Baked Alaska and a 2014 Jaguar. It doesn't work for me. I almost abstained from voting altogether. But I finally decided on the very subjective basis that I don't want to read any more zombie fiction and I did find A Bard's poem very beautiful.

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  12. I vote for Writer22.

    Suggestion, take out: slept through the onslaught of the zombie apocalypse. He

    It takes away from the mystery of the moment. You are doing 3rd person limited, and it appears when he wakes up, he doesn't know about the Zombies. Why then should the reader know about it? Let us learn when the character learns.

    This character seems very cold. I don't buy it. It would be one thing if he felt an inclination to help the girl, but then told himself not to. It's one thing to be a slacker and lazy, it's another to be inhuman. You're talking about a personality overwriting a basic instinct. It's possible, but unlikely for a teenager.

    Nice nod to Joss Whedon.

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  13. Wow – tough matchup this bout. How do you compare two such radically different pieces?

    I like A. Bard's poetic entry. If nothing else, it's nice to read something that doesn't take its readers for idiots – one has to have a familiarity of Greek mythology and Homer's Odyssey in order to get all the references. Many of the lines are evocative and lovely. But I also admit that while I enjoy it, I'm not quite sure I quite "get" the poem. But that's probably subjective – a poem's interpretation requires the reader to bring some of their own emotions and experiences to the reading. I get the image of a woman trying to wait like Homer's Penelope, but then losing patience and trailing after her Odysseus to hunt him down, but I'm not quite sure what the ending means. Does she die and follow him to Hades, only to ultimately return to wait for him to (never) return? But perhaps the ambiguity is intended – as I said, a good poem leaves room for interpretation. Regardless, it's an enjoyable entry.

    Writer22 entry is a polar opposite of A.Bard's. Here we have yet another YA post-apocalyptic fantasy, complete with zombies and a snarky, slacker MC. Not much is asked of the reader other than to sit back and enjoy the ride. Writer22 even gives the story away with a telling opening line, so the reader doesn't even have to try and figure out what is happening to poor Walter. Too bad – figuring it out would have been much more fun. But even so, the story flows well and there are a lot of amusing bits here. It did take me a moment to realize the dialog was only imagined as Walter was getting off the bus, because he even imagines himself making a mistake about the religious name and her correcting him. Falling asleep on the bus as the zombies attack the school also seems a little hard to believe, and just how fast did those jocks turn into zombies, anyway? It all just seems implausible (I mean, even allowing for the whole "zombie" suspension-of-disbelief. Because, truthfully, the physics and physiology of zombies really doesn't work out at all. But that's a discussion for another day…). Anyway, I do think Writer22 does well with the writing, and the humor helps keep this story from taking itself too seriously, which is good.

    All-in-all, I did enjoy both entries. But although I am nowhere near a "poetry guy," I have to give the nod to A. Bard in this bout. There was just a little more substance in their piece, I think.

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  14. I'm not a poetry person, but A Bard's poem was lovely. But at the end of the day, the humor in Writer22's piece got me. I'd read far more pages of that than the gorgeous poetry.... So Writer22 for me this round.

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  15. I'm not a poetry gal. And I hate zombies. I'm still recovering from THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. That said, I'd be more likely to read more of Writer 22's.

    My vote here is for Writer 22.

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  16. A. Bard, I'm not a poetry person either, but I recognized beauty when I see it. This is genuine writing in a contest that... never mind. A. Bard

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  17. A. Bard.
    Writer 22's typo's and poor research were off-putting.

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  18. Dear A. Bard - I think I love you...
    Writer22 - "Jehovah's Witnesses" is one of those things that spelling wrong could really go wrong. (Though maybe there's another spelling in non-American English?) Xbox is one word. Cheetos is a brand name, and therefore a proper noun. Earth, as a location, is also a proper noun. Gesundheit is the German word for good health, similar to "bless you," gazuntite is something to do with mountain bikes, I believe.
    No one is perfect, but hopefully these mistakes could be avoided in the future. I only mean to help with these notes, so please take it as such.
    I am willing to believe that the bus driver was eaten by or became a zombie, and thus the MC was left on the bus. I'm also willing to believe that a high school boy would see a horrible act in progress and do nothing at all, not even "snitch" by dialing 911. (I believe it because I've seen worse.)
    The overall story is alright. I think it could make a decent graphic novel. Written as it is, it just isn't my personal cup of tea.

    A Bard - You have my vote. As well as my undying fandom.

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  19. Two very different entries are contrasted here. A. Bard offers lovely literary verse; I don't read much poetry or romance, but this one drew me in and had an effect on me. Its tone reminds me a bit of "Demain des l'aube" by Victor Hugo, an all-time favorite from French literature.

    Writer22 does well in capturing the youthful POV, and though the character is clearly in high school, the voice felt borderline MG. That said, I felt the writing wasn't quite as polished. There were some abrupt transitions where the scene changed, but I had no way of knowing. There were also small things like misspelling of "Xbox" and failure to capitalize "Cheetos." Still, a lot of potential and with some smoothing this piece sure has potential.

    Both writers should be proud to make the cut into the first round. My vote here must go to A. Bard.

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  20. A. Bard has my vote.
    Writer22 has an interesting premise, but needs more work before it can be an award winner.

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  21. A. Bard. I love poetry and this just did it for me. loved the mythology references! Writer22 made me smile a few times, and if there wasn't such a great poem to compete with, I would have picked it.

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  22. A. Bard definitely. I read it twice, that's how much I adored the poetry.
    Writer22, the writing needs polishing. Overall a good story, I agree with the comment about this doing well as a graphic novel.
    Congratulations to both for making it to this round.

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  23. A. Bard for me this round. The reversal of the roles of Penelope and Odysseus in this romantic poem was brilliant—every line was a pleasure to read, each line feeding into the next, rewinding Homer's Odyssey and finally, stepping outside the archetype of the epic poem with the line "But your way was never back to Ithaca." I also loved that this poet did not "shoehorn" the Homeric references; they flowed effortlessly as a catalog of the protagonist's yearning. No Procrustean bed here! I am just in awe and could go on and on, but I won't. Except to recommend a song that follows the archetype (by heading towards home) but mirrors the yearning and has an intensely personal aspect from the opposite POV: Ithaca by Jake Armerding.

    I am a huge fan of zombie fiction (and I sometimes wonder, watching everyone stumbling around as they try to walk and text if the genre isn't foreshadowing an ominous future for our race ...) and if A. Bard's offering had not been so outstanding, Writer22's piece would have gotten my vote in many of the other rounds. The complaints of the other voters (misspellings, the revelation at the very beginning that it was the zombie apocalypse, lack of polish) did not keep me from tucking right in and wanting to find out how this dweeby kid gets himself (and, hopefully, the girl) out of this gory, shuffling, rotting pickle. I liked the voice, too. A nerdy, underwieght, not-fully-pubesced high-school sophmore IS going to have sort of a middle-grade voice and that works for me, given the extraordinary circumstances he will find himself in. Lots of scope for a great zombie romp here.

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  24. A. Bard's imagery was gorgeous. I'm usually not a poetry person, but I fought the feelings and emotions in this work were stunning. It called to me more than Writer22's fic. I have to give my vote to A. Bard.

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  25. I'm terrible, and I just can't compare poetry and prose. I will also abstain from this round as my vote probably wouldn't be fair.

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  26. A. Bard
    I really enjoyed some of the lines in the poem but what I really wanted was more of a personal conclusion rather than just the end of the events in the story. Very nice.

    Writer 22
    I did like the humour of the story and I pictured the kid from Zombieland and his comical way of dealing with zombies. I don't mind that the kid was left on the bus. I mean seriously, if readers can't escape the imprisonment of that line then they should in no way be reading zombie books. I really liked the fact that he thought the jocks were just messing with the girl and his remarks about them. I laughed when I read it. Sure there are a bunch of errors but I read right through them. While I do love the post apocalyptic I don't think I could read a humorous one for very long. A movie version? Heck yeah but not a book. I like 'em serious.

    My vote is for A. Bard

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  27. Writer22 gets my vote this round. I really did enjoy both pieces, and the writing in the first one was beautiful, but I'm a sucker for zombies, and adding in some comedy takes the cake.

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  28. So hard to compare the two!

    Voting for A. Bard.

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  29. This is a difficult match-up. Stacking poetry up against prose makes for a really hard decision. Neither piece is my cuppa tea, but I do have to say while I enjoy peotry it has to 'hook' me in the first few lines or I'm done. Unfortunately A Bad did not do that. So, although I think zombies have been a bit overdone and are not normally my fare, my vote goes to Writer 22 for the humorous presentation.

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  30. I agree that it was difficult to choose between these two vastly different pieces. Writer 22, I'll admit, did entertain me, although the errors were careless. Attention to detail is important. A. Bard, however, had a piece which was written magnificently. I am not a regular reader of poetry, but this had class and style and emotion and... was well worth reading. Well done. My vote goes to A. Bard.

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  31. ABard gets my vote because I loved the yearning in the poet's voice. Every line flowed for me, except this one: "I will step in the sand and burn sandalwood." By contrast, I stumbled over all the typos, punctuation, and spelling errors in Writer22's piece. As a side note, I found ABard's references to Penelope on an epic journey a bit strange because although Penelope did stitch and then un-stitch a death shroud (not a wedding veil), she stayed at home in Ithaca to wait for Odysseus during and after the Trojan War. I wonder if a more apt comparison might be Psyche, who did take on an epic journey to be with her lover Cupid. No matter the facts, the poetry entry made me think and feel, and I like that.

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    1. I agree on the sand and sandalwood line - maybe change that up so it's not so similar.

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  32. Oh, tough one, but I think I'm going to go with A.Bard for this round. Good luck!

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  33. So I started reading the first one and thought, oh, no - not poetry! Because poetry can be really sucky. But this one is not sucky at all, it's quite beautiful and I liked it a lot. So, my vote goes there. Very nice sensory details - draughts like peaches and honey, darkness like asphodels (though I admit I had to look up what an asphodel is).

    I had a couple issues with the zombie piece. First, I couldn't connect with the character because the writer seems to be trying to make him unlikeable. It's one thing to have a MC that's kind of lazy or awkward and stuff (Shaun of the Dead, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), but there needs to be something that does pull you in despite their flaws. Second, what kind of comment is "You should have just said no and made better choices" to a girl being attacked by a bunch of guys? Since he hasn't yet realized it's a zombie apocalypse the only other logical alternative is they were attempting to assault her. Since she is screaming, why on earth would he think she didn't say no? And the 'make better choices part' implies it's her fault in some way. Thirdly, with so many zombie stories out there, you need something unique to set yours apart, and it may be there, but was not showcased in this 500 words. Also, do a polish for typos and punctuation errors. Otherwise, nice voice and rhythm, so good job in that regard.

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  34. A Bard has my vote. I know nothing of poetry, but this has a rhythm and voice I enjoyed, and I feel like I got the focus of the writing.

    Writer 22: there is a lot of good writing here, and a pretty good story concept. There were some POV issues, and distance issues that I would have left extensive comments on if I were critiquing this. I like the story concept, and the not-so-likeable hero. Your MC has a lot of growth potential, and I like that prospect. Please keep working on the editing. It is a good start.

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  35. The zombie piece is cute---especially that last line, but I've got to vote for A. Bard. That was stunning.

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  36. Here's the thing. Poetry doesn't do it for me at all. A. Bard had fantastic word choice, the piece was well written, but it was a little too, "Song of Solomon" for me. I was naturally leaning towards Writer22's piece, but there were sloppy spelling/grammar mistakes. I'm a fiend for clean spelling and grammar, and I feel that anyone who can't take a minute to Google how to spell "gesundhuit" or "Jehovah" isn't taking this seriously. While I preferred the content in Writer22's piece, I have to vote for the writing itself.

    A. Bard get's my voice.

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  37. I'm voting for A. Bard.

    It's refreshing to see something different, and I also appreciated the carefully chosen details and the Homeric and mythological references. There are a few lines that are quite lovely, although there are also passages where the rhythm is off because the language gets too prosy. Oddly -- and sadly -- there is a current trend in which people take a prose vignette, line it as a poem, and call it poetry; we even see this in some of the big poetry publications that should really know better! It's as if they've forgotten that even in free verse where there's no rhyme or strict meter, the sound of the words -- the rhythm and the beats -- is still just as crucial, and those words still have to sing. If they don't, it's not poetry -- it's prose.

    The overall content and the images here are good, and with some revisions to bring out that 'music' this could be a much stronger poem. I'd recommend that the author focus on reading it aloud while listening carefully to the sound of the words and the beats, without even worrying about the meaning, in order to hear what should be cut out or rearranged. One obvious example is the 'that' in the first stanza. I'd take it out even if this were prose, incidentally, since it doesn't add anything, but it's even more important here, because when you read that stanza aloud with and without it, it's clear that its inclusion spoils the rhythm. Or listen to how much nicer it sounds if 'Even if' is replaced with 'Though' in the stanza beginning 'Circe's eyes'. And I have to say I was puzzled to see that someone took issue with the repetition of the syllable 'sand' in the line 'I will step in the sand and burn sandalwood', since that's actually very nice (it's highly appropriate in poetry!), especially when added to the internal rhyme from 'land' in the preceding line -- that's one of the strongest parts of the poem. I also think the seventh and ninth stanzas have many lines that work well.

    Writer22's entry is quite funny and made me laugh out loud. Frankly, I've never seen the appeal of zombies, and since the concept is so inherently ridiculous, I think their only entertainment value is for humor. I think this piece does a great job of taking advantage of that, and I read it as being purely humorous from beginning to end. So I'm surprised to see that a number of people seemed to be trying to read this as if it were at least partly serious, when it seemed pretty obvious to me that it wasn't intended that way at all.

    As others have pointed out, there are some errors in this excerpt, but I assumed that some things, such as the spelling of 'Gazuntite', were done deliberately for the humor of it. In any case, I think that as a comical piece this works quite well, and the voice is also appropriate. But since A. Bard's poem is more polished -- as well as more unique in the context of this contest -- it can't quite compete here. This was certainly a case of apples and oranges, though, which makes it trickier to choose one. (I agree with SE Hudnall that it's kind of like being asked to choose between a fancy dessert and a sports car!)

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