the golden shovel


The Golden Shovel

The following is written by Jan Hutchinson:
The Golden Shovel is a poetic form readers might not — yet — be “familiar
with. It was devised recently by Terrance Hayes in homage to Gwendolyn
Brooks…. The last words of each line in a Golden Shovel poem are, in
order, words from a line or lines taken often, but not invariably, from a
Brooks poem. The results of this technique can be quite different in
subject, tone, and texture from the source poem, depending upon the
ingenuity and imagination of the poet who undertakes to compose one.
(Don Share)

Here is the original poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. I heard her read it at Berkshire
School in Sheffield, Massachusetts only weeks before she died. She read it once
like jazz and again as rap. She’d had already suffered a stroke and was wobbly
but sharp as a tack:

We Real Cool

The pool players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

(Try reading this so it is a rap. Watch the tempo.)

(Then try reading it as jazz. play the sax.)

Here is Terrance Hayes’ first Golden Shovel poem:
The Golden Shovel
I. 1981
When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real

men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we

drift by women on bar stools, with nothing left
in them but approachlessness. This is a school

I do not know yet. But the cue sticks mean we
are rubbed by light, smooth as wood, the lurk

of smoke thinned to song. We won’t be out late.
Standing in the middle of the street last night we

watched the moonlit lawns and a neighbor strike
his son in the face. A shadow knocked straight

Da promised to leave me everything: the shovel we
used to bury the dog, the words he loved to sing

his rusted pistol, his squeaky Bible, his sin.
The boy’s sneakers were light on the road. We

watched him run to us looking wounded and thin.
He’d been caught lying or drinking his father’s gin.

He’d been defending his ma, trying to be a man. We
stood in the road, and my father talked about jazz,

how sometimes a tune is born of outrage. By June
the boy would be locked upstate. That night we

got down on our knees in my room. If I should die
before I wake. Da said to me, it will be too soon.

Terrance Hayes
after Gwendolyn Brooks


I’m going to try my first golden shovel poem tonight. See you tomorrow!

Poetry Reading in Song

JeanneIn Studio

Jeanne Listens to iMac

in the studio with the greatest sounds


We listened to the poems

the music, the beat

of hearts of artists

who jammed,


in words


in the deep


flew up!

Thankyou Jan Hutchinson, for the prompts extraordiaire!

listen for yourself:

I curtsy before you…


photo by Jeanne (painted by Annika)


Instead of composing my own poem about “manners” today, I want to share these hilarious bits from other poets. These are today’s prompt from Jan Hutchinson.

Manners Prompt
Write a poem made up of suggestions (real or absurd) for
appropriate manners or behavior in specific situations. You might
talk about being taught manners. Or you might simply entitle your
poem “Manners” and go somewhere unexpected.

Carrie says it’s more rude to stare at a blind man on the street
than to make a fat person joke about someone on TV.
Tony Hoagland

If someone you know
who died long ago
appears to you in dream,
it is rude to point out to them
that they are actually already dead.

…silence is always good manners
and often a clever thing to say
when you are at a party.
Tony Hoagland
in “Social Life”

Mary June’s brother Willard always had
just a certain corner of his handkerchief
hanging out of his hip pocket. That was
my first intimation of a personal style.
My hair wouldn’t comb down; so
every night for years I wore
one of Aunt Klara’s silk stockings
pulled firmly on top of my head.
When we had company my mother was always
afraid I would swing my soup spoon
toward me rather than away. And I was to
leave a little, not scraps like a dog at the last.
These glimpses of decorum in my early life
have fitted me for success. My manners,
my neat handkerchief, and my tame haircut
have seen me through everyday encounters with society.
William Stafford
in The Way It Is

Sit, she said. The wolf sat. Shake, she said.
He held his face and tail still
and shook everything in between. His fur
stood out in all directions. Sparks flew.
Dear sister, she wrote. His yellow eyes
followed the words discreetly. I have imagined
a wolf. He smells bad. He pants and his long tongue
drips onto the rug, my favorite rug. It has arrows
and urns and diamonds in it. The wolf sits
where I’ve stared all morning hoping
for a heron: statuesque, aloof,
enigmatic. Be that way, the wolf said.
There are other poets.
Pamela Alexander
in Inland

In the here and now


illustrator: Boyana Petkova

Some say

there is no now,

just this hairline crack

between the past

and the future

in which we sense

our presence.


Others say

there is nothing

but the now,

and the now

is eternal,



This is not an argument.

It’s a paradox.

                   jch 6/28/2015

Definition #183 Artist

Jeanne the artist strikes a note!

Jeanne the artist
strikes a note!

 “I am

a birdbrain;

I have no right

to sing.”

jch 7/9/2014

My Song:

What is an artist?


See with third eye

Breathe in the Spirit

Blossom with passion

Perceive light and shadow



Create like the creator’s daughter

Celebrate diversity!


Who came to the Poetry Reading?

Who came to the Poetry Reading?

Every April, Jan Hutchinson stages a poetry reading of her April Poetry Month Prompts
with the help of Cecile at the Roe Jan Library in Hillsdale, NY.
From 230 writers, we gleaned some 30 who shared their work with us.

Some of them played and sang,
some strummed and intoned,
some recited lyrics hankering for a melody,
some read, carefully rocking us with their chants,
some made us laugh with absurdity.

Some shared secrets,
some tweeted scant phrases that fit in the cracks,
some whispered; some shouted,
some wrote; some didn’t,
some gestured in polka-dotted tights.

Jan read too, modestly,
elegantly pulling the whole thing together,
a wide track from Great Barrington to Hillsdale,
from meadows to ponds, from hills and vales,
reaching even to Armenia’s 16 year old bards.

Three years in a row:
seeds planted
poems bloomed:
poetry’s Boo-Peep
and her sheep.

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