I don’t consider myself a poet but I like to dabble. Because of that, I keep an eye out for new-to-me types of poetry. Here is one that Jane Yolen wrote about in her June 19 daily poetry mailing – the Golden Shovel.
Terrence Hayes recently created this form in homage to poet Gwendolyn Brooks. The writer selects a favorite line or lines of poetry and uses the words, on order, to create a new poem. Each word becomes the last word of a line in the new poem.
In this article, the Poetry Foundation says that often the lines come from a Brooks poem. Yolen took hers from an Emily Dickenson poem. Yolen wrote hers as something of a poetic conversation between her poem and Dickinson’s. The Poetry Foundation article doesn’t mention this, nor does Robert Brewer in his post on the form. Like Yolen, Brewer took his line from something other than a Brooks poem – his is from Basho. The name of the form comes from the poem that Hayes originally created, The Golden Shovel. You can read it here.
My first attempt involved working with lines from Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene Fields. Wynken and Blynken? Oh, help. So I chose two other lines. “Sailed on a river of crystal light/Into a sea of dew.” But the words “a,” “of,” and “on” weren’t a whole lot better. Pbbt.
Ok. Let’s switch poets. What about Poe? Not a children’s poet by a longshot but I sure won’t be encountering words like Wynken and Blynken. I flipped to Eldorado, knowing from the start that I’d have to avoid that botched Spanish name. Let’s go with something super simple – a single line. “Ride boldly ride.”
I can’t say that what I came up with is brilliant but it sure has a different tone than Eldorado.
Giddy-up we ride
Horses galloping boldly
Down the hall we ride.
In truth, I only strongly dislike the last line. But nothing I try feels like an improvement. Different? Yes. Improved? No.
The key to making this one work may be abandoning the Golden Shovel format. Why? Because I can see it working much better in four lines. Three? That just feels too short. Four or six? Much more do-able. So if you’ll excuse me, my stick pony and I are going to go rework a poem.