Earlier this year, I came across a mention of the “golden shovel” form created by Terrance Hayes and made a note to check it out. I’m so happy I did, because it’s a fun poetic form.
Here are the rules for the Golden Shovel:
- Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
- Use each word in the line (or lines) as an end word in your poem.
- Keep the end words in order.
- Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
- The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.
If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.
If it’s still kind of abstract, read these two poems to see how Terrance Hayes used a Gwendolyn Brooks poem to write the first golden shovel:
- We Real Cool, by Gwendolyn Brooks (original poem)
- The Golden Shovel, by Terrance Hayes (golden shovel poem)
As you can see, the original golden shovel takes more than a line from the poem. In fact, it pulls every word from the Brooks poem, and it does it twice.
This form is sort of in the tradition of the cento and erasure, but it offers a lot more room for creativity than other found poetry.
Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.
This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!
Here’s my attempt at a golden shovel:
“Aging Well,” by Robert Lee Brewer
-after Basho as translated by Allen Ginsberg
The funny thing about growing old
is you never know how to respond
until after the fact. Like a frog
that sits and then eventually jumps
there’s absolutely no thought given
to the process. You’re young; then, kerplunk!
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, he’s been a featured poet at several events around the country, including recent appearances at the Austin International Poetry Festival and Poetry Hickory.
Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.