Reading, Teaching, Learning

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Slice of Life - Golden Shovel Poem

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One Last Word Cover

     I finished this fabulous book of book of poetry by Nikki Grimes, who gathered her favorite Harlem Renaissance poems and composed original poems from them using the "Golden Shovel" technique.  Grimes defines it like this: The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original. I was fascinated by this poetic form and was inspired to try it out.  I want to challenge my students to try it, also.  Here is my attempt:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

What direction will my life take? Only time will tell.
I can try to choose the paths, but ultimately, who controls me?
Do I make my own plans, no matter what?
My future - do I determine what it is?
Or fate? Or does some higher power make it?
Is that higher power created by me and you?
Or is It/He/She part of a grand, cosmic plan?
Do I believe like the teachers at Sunday School told me to?
An Alpha and Omega showing me what to do
if I commune with, meditate with, and pray with...
Is that higher power my Father, my Friend,  your
Savior, the only One?
Oh, these thoughts, so rebellious, hopeful, and wild!
After all these questions and the pondering and
the doubts, ultimately faith comes in, and it's precious.
This path or that, left or right, chosen by me AND You... life.

--Holly Mueller


  1. I am finding that this exercise has a dual purpose. One is reading poetry closely to find a favorite line to use. The second is designing a poem to say what you want to say. Many of my students did seem to follow the theme of the poem chosen. I notice all the questions in your poem. Aren't we all wondering if we are doing the right and best thing with our lives? Good luck with your students.

  2. WOW! I loved that book too, Holly. I've been so intimidated by that form. How difficult was it? LOVE your poem and I agree with Margaret, I love the dual purpose.

  3. I am so intrigued by this form. I don't have Grimes' book yet, and it seems I must get it!

  4. I just finished this book this week! I love that you tackled the form and created your own Golden Shovel poem.

  5. Holly, I have not read Grimes' book but love what you did with your Golden Shovel poem. "Ultimately faith comes in and it is precious."-Great line!