How to Write a Golden Shovel Poem

Golden shovel poetry is a poetic form in which you borrow a line, or lines, from someone else’s poem, and use each of their words as the end-words in your poem. Personally, I struggle with this form. It’s a challenge but I love that we get to celebrate and honor our favorite poets and their poems.

The Golden Shovel form was created by U.S. Poet Terrance Hayes in 2010 when he wrote his poem, The Golden Shovel, and published it in his book Lighthead. He wrote the poem borrowing a line from U.S. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, We Real Cool, to honor her as one of his literary heroes. I’m unable to share the poems for copyright reasons, but the links here will take you to both poems. Take a look. I’ll wait.

Amazing right? 

U.S. Poet Terrance Hayes has set the bar high but has inspired many poets to try their hand at a Golden Shovel poem.

Here are the rules:

  1. Pick a poem, any poem.
  2. Borrow a line in the poem (or the entire poem) and use each of the words as the final word of each line in your poem. For example, if you borrow a ten-word line in a poem, your poem will have ten lines.
  3. You must keep the original order of the words intact.
  4. Your new poem can have a different meaning than the original. 
  5. Remember to credit the author of the poem you borrowed by writing “after (poet’s name)” after your title and byline.
  6. It’s the poet’s preference but I like to see the words at the end of a Golden Shovel poem in bold font so when I’m reading I can easily see the borrowed line of poetry in its entirety when I read down the page.