Monday, February 08, 2021

Golden Shovel Poetry

For Black History Month, we're focusing on poetry. This morning we listened to Amanda Gorman's TedTalk as well as her poem 'The Hill We Climb,' then we did some reading in some books I'd gotten from the library—anthologies of Black poets, as well as stand alone collections by Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Nikki Grimes, and others. We each shared a poem we'd read that we liked. And then, because I like to do my lesson planning somewhat spontaneously, I based our writing exercise on Nikki Grimes' book One Last Word, since that's the one that ended up in my hands.

Each poem of hers is a Golden Shovel poem, which she explains means that you take a "striking line" from a poem (or a poem in its entirety) and write the words down on the right side of your page, and then write a line that ends with each word to form an entirely new poem, like an acrostic...but different. 

Her first "striking line" comes from 'Storm Ending' by Jean Toomer:

Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind, 
Stretching clappers to strike our ears...
Full-lipped flowers Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

Nikki Grimes' poem is called 'Truth':

The truth is, every day we rise is like thunder
a clap of surprise. Could be echoes of trouble, or blossoms
of blessing. You never know what garish or gorgeously 
disguised memories-to-be might rain down from above.
So, look up! Claim that cloud with the silver lining. Our
job, if you ask me, is to follow it. See where it heads.

I selected the first line of Grimes' poem and wrote this:

The lies we tell for comfort, hiding the
cold, hard pain of the cruel truth,
stack up and surround us, form a wall that is
so thick and high we believe it's real. We believe every
brick is laid there for a reason until one day
we notice that wall is blocking our view. We
notice, perhaps, a hint of something more, and so we rise
on tiptoe, straining to see what it is
that lies beyond our wall—free things, real things—like
trees, sky, people. Freedom. And the truth hits us with power like thunder.

The kids wrote other Golden Shovel poems (using lines from Amanda Gorman), but we also thought it would be a fun exercise to just pass our poetry around the table, so Rachel took a line from my poem and wrote this:

I see a butterfly fluttering by, a
delicate, minuscule hint
of spring, of warmth, of rain, of flowers, of
something more than dry, cold wind, of something
different than winter. This small butterfly brings a hint of more.

Then Miriam took a line from Rachel's poem and wrote this:

I see something of
great power. The truth more beautiful than spring,
the truth a beautiful sparkling thing of
light and warmth,
a tingling sensation floods the earth of
thunderous love, glorious rain—
the rains of growth, of
the growing of flowers.

And that's about as far as our chain got because Benjamin was struggling with this format (it can be tricky) and we needed to move on to other things, but I think this would be a fun exercise to do in a writing group, passing poems around, finding "striking lines" and building new poetry from that inspiration.