Nikki Grimes did not invent the Golden Shovel poetry form, but she may have perfected it. After listening to this podcast on All the Wonders, I pulled out the advanced copy of One Last Word that Nikki graciously signed at NCTE 16. To share the poems with my students, I copied the original poem written by a Harlem Renaissance poet alongside Nikki’s Golden Shovel poem. These were high level poems that really pushed the thinking of my students.
The idea of a Golden Shovel is to take a line or stanza of a poem, write the words down the right margin and build your own poem around the words. I had never done one myself, so I wasn’t really sure how well my students would do. I gave my students the option to use a line from the poems I shared with them or choose another poem from the plethora of poetry books on the shelf.
Imagine my surprise when I selected No Images by William Waring Cuney that I found in Hip Hop Speaks to Children and realized that Nikki Grimes had tackled this same poem in One Last Word. I felt a kinship to her with this serendipity.
With her lips, she
speaks volumes but does
only good, careful not
to disturb what they think they know
She does not know her own beauty.
With her eyes, she
looks deeply, thinks
longingly about her
future in brown
If love has
an answer, then no
one can take away her glory.
No one knows Everything
the world Is
a mystery, but digging deeper shows Everything
has a connection, a purpose, but What
is the meaning of life? Is
it just simply surviving, no! Lives are Meant
to be lived; hearts are meant To
be shared; care is supposed to Be
given. People don’t donate their emotions anymore, but they Will
regret this. Remember no one knows everything, so let it Be
After Lauryn Hill
by Emily, 6th grade
“The line I used came from the poem, For a Poet by Countee Cullen. The line is And laid them away in a box of gold.” Lynzee, 2nd grade
I have hopes and
dreams. I have laid
all of them
my blossoming treasures away.
They are safe in
a box beside my heart; it is a
treasure too, my glittering box
treasure, made of gold.
This is what my student Andrew, 4th grade, had to say about writing a Golden Shovel poem.
“When I was told to do a golden shovel poem I was like, ” Hm. That shouldn’t be so hard.” Then BOOM!! You get punched in the brain. So we have to take a whole line from a poem and use all the words and every sentence that you make has to end with one of the words. For example . The sentence that I chose was, “We move and hustle but lack rhythm.” The first sentence had to end with We. The second sentence had to end with move then so on so on. I have to admit that was the hardest poem I have to make. And it took the longest to come up with. I don’t know the exact time but it was more than twenty minutes. Usually my poems take about 5-10 minutes but this was a lot longer. But I think that might be my best poem.”
Thanks, Nikki, for the punch in the brain. I think we are all better poets because of it.