See the explanation of the form on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog for the Golden Shovel or a copy of it below. Terrence Hayes invented this form.
In summary, you choose a line or more from one of your favorite poems and use every word of those lines in a poem you write as the last word of your lines.
The explanation on Brewer’s blog contains two links to an exquisite example: Gwendolyn Brooks’ ‘We real cool’ poem as the original poem and Terrence Hayes’ ‘Golden Shovel’ poem.
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.