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{Can You Dig It?}


(photo credit: Amazon.com


Hello, intrepid poets. De Jackson here, aka WhimsyGizmo. In April, many of us dig in our inky heels and write a poem a day, all month long. You might still be recovering from that. (I know I am!) And since it’s also Cinco de Mayo today, I think it’s time for a fun, fairly forgiving form: the Golden Shovel. This form is in the tradition of the cento, or erasure, but with a lot more flexibility.

Here are the rules, in a nutshell:

– Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
– Use each word in the line(s) as an END word in your poem.
– Keep the words from the original line in order. When finished, you will be able to read down the right margin, and have the original chosen line intact.
– Give credit to the poet who wrote the line(s). You may also want to include a link to the original poem, so we can see your inspiration.
– The new poem does not have to be about the same subject matter, but it can be in a similar vein, if you choose. Or not.

For example, if you choose a line with 6 words, your poem will be 6 lines long. If you pull a whole stanza with 22 words, your poem would be 22 lines long. Etc. There are no rules for meter, syllable count, etc. You can place two words per line, or as many as you want, so long as the last word of each line stays true to the original inspiration.

The first Golden Shovel was written by Terrance Hayes, using Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, We Real Cool. I’m not sure of copyright, so I’ll need to send you over here to read it: The Golden Shovel. As you’ll see, Hayes uses Brooks’ entire poem as a guide, twice, to create a longer poem.

Here’s a quick example, using Carl Sandburg’s first line from Fog:

Original line: The fog comes on little cat feet.
Golden Shovel poem:

Writing in Clouds of Gray
(after Sandburg)

Oh, how the
fugue of fog
tilts her. She comes
to the page on
timid fingers, little
curlicue cat
metered feet.

(I’ve used bold here so you can trace the path of the original poem. I wouldn’t leave it that way to post it, as I find it distracting to reading a new piece.)

I wrote a much longer one this past month, based on Brooks’ We Real Cool.

You can find a host of other examples here, submitted by poets at Poetic Asides when Robert Lee Brewer introduced the form awhile back.

Need to find a poem to use? Try this list of most popular famous poems.

Or use one of these lines:

since feeling is first, who pays any attention (E.E. Cummings)
The world is too much with us; late and soon (Wordsworth)
We wear the mask that grins and lies (Paul Lawrence Dunbar)
Let us go then, you and I (T.S. Eliot)
My candle burns at both ends (Edna St. Vincent Millay)
What happens to a dream deferred (Langston Hughes)
Often rebuked, yet always back returning (Emily Bronte)

or use this whole poem, from Basho:

Old pond –
A frog leaps in –
Water’s sound.

You could even use a line from a favorite song. (Songs are, after all, poetry put to music.)

And if you want to give it a Cinco de Mayo twist, here’s a list of Famous Mexican poets from Poetry Soup.

Are you diggin’ it?
Here’s what to do:
– Create your Golden Shovel poem and post it on your blog. Don’t forget to credit the original poet/poem that inspired your piece.
– Click on Mr. Linky and enter your name; copy the URL of your poem from your blog and enter it in the space provided, then click ENTER.
– Visit the links for other poets! Read. Comment. Enjoy each other. Poetry is all about inspiration and the exchange of ideas.
– Promote the poems you like on the social media of your choice.
– Please link back to this dVerse post from your site.
– Have fun!
– Leave us a comment below or join in the discussion:
Do you have a favorite Mexican poet? What are your Cinco de Mayo traditions?
If you’re from that part of the world, tell us about the celebration.