sauntering out of the almost-
silly West, on your face
a porcelain grin,
tugging a papier-mâché cactus
on wheels behind you with a string,
you are innocent as a bathtub
full of bullets.
The verse and imagery above helped to clinch the win for Margaret Atwood's "Backdrop addresses cowboy" in Ms. Becca Derry's AP Literature class's 2021 Poetry March Madness competition.
This annual single-elimination competition started with students reading, analyzing, and evaluating 16 pre-20th-century poems and 16 20th and 21st-century poems, written by a combination of well-known poets (such as Frost, Tennyson, Longfellow, Dickinson, and Atwood) and lesser-known and contemporary poets (including Chen Chen, Shara McCallum, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, and Alex Dimitrov).
In the first round, students considered the overall meaning and message of the poems. Through the second round, they evaluated the poems based on their imagery, literal and figurative. Then in the third round, they focused on the sound and structure of the poems. This progression allowed them to review poetic elements and techniques using poems with which they were already familiar. The semifinals and finals took a more holistic approach, with students asking themselves "Which is a better poem, and why?"
Last week, students evaluated the final four works, which pitted "Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun" by Emily Brontë, against "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the pre-20th-century category and "After Apple-Picking" by Robert Frost against "Backdrop addresses cowboy" by Margaret Atwood in the modern/contemporary category. "Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun" and "Backdrop addresses cowboy" progressed to the finals, where "Backdrop addresses cowboy" ultimately beat "Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun" in the final round by a single vote!
Congratulations to Atwood and Ms. Derry's AP Lit students for another exciting Poetry March Madness competition!