The Golden Shovel Poetic Form

I recently received a book I had on hold at the library, One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes. I had no idea what to expect; I think I put it on hold when I was reading picture books last week because I thought the cover looked cool. Little did I know that One Last Word was written in a form called The Golden Shovel. This poetic form is the topic of today’s Monday Musing.


Naturally, I had to find out more about this poetic form. It turns out that Terrence Hayes took the lines from Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool,” wrote them down the right hand side of his page, then wrote new lines where the original words became the last words of each new line written. Simple in concept, not so easy in execution. If you click on the two links in this paragraph, you’ll see what I mean.

As I was researching this poetic form, I was also thinking about the students I had the honor of working with last week. I thought that this might be an awesome thing for them to try. As is my custom, if I ask my students to do something, I’m also going to do it. My favorite poem ever is called “You Damn Right” in the poetry collection Hurdy-Gurdy by Tim Seibles. I read it in my first creative writing class in college, and spent the next five years trying to find the collection. So the lines I’m using from this poem are

he’s pissed off and you
damn right
he gonna cop
an attitude and nobody
better say shit about it

you told me that he’s
so pissed
there was no way to cut him off.
send him home. get him out of the streets. and
I looked at you like I couldn’t give a damn
about whether he was right
or not. and he was. of course he
was. but he was never gonna stop. never gonna
give up the fight until everyone had a chance to cop
a piece of that American Dream. fairly. an
unfair circumstance coupled with his attitude
took him away. and
it better do something to mobilize all the rest of ya’ll because my man wasn’t nobody.
he wasn’t mediocre. he was better
than anybody. he was the one shouting from the rooftops. say
his life matters. say the life of the son he left behind matters. and don’t say shit
went down this way because someone feared for his life. tell about
how he wouldn’t lie down and take it
and how none of the rest of them should neither.

I think I may add The Golden Shovel poetry to my Wednesday rotation of posts for a little while. It will encourage me to read more poetry. Who can complain about that?

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