SOLC 2018–Day 7: Golden Shovels


March 2018 SOLC–Day 7
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

I’m a huge fan of Michelle H. Barnes’ blog, Today’s Little Ditty. Her poetry is inspiring and her monthly author interviews are always engaging, amazingly informative and well crafted. At the end of her interviews, she invites authors to post a poem challenge for that month. Last month J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen’s challenge was to write funny or clever epitaphs (here). This month Michelle interviewed Nikki Grimes (here), who challenged readers to use a line from one of the poems in the piece to write a golden shovel poem. This was just the push I needed, as I’ve been wanting to try a golden shovel poem for a while. (If you’re unfamiliar with the format, you can read a stellar explanation from Ms. Grimes at the end of the interview. Alternatively, if you just read the poems below, I think you’ll be able to figure it out.)

I took the line “a poem can split your skin” and laid it out on the righthand margin of my writer’s notebook. Then I got started. It was a very interesting process, almost like working backwards. Having your line breaks already in place, really impacts your piece, and creating a poem that doesn’t sound forced or contrived to fit this format is quite challenging.  Here’s my first effort:

The Power of a Poem

Like a tree root surging up through a
patch of asphalt, a poem
may persist until it cracks open your ribs. It can
expose your heart and split
your chest into sinew, bone, and skin

M. Hogan (c) 2018

“Truth by Tyrone Bittings” © Nikki Grimes, 2018
from BETWEEN THE LINES (Nancy Paulsen Books)

Then, I tried out another golden shovel using this line: “to strap on your own power”


This is your one life to
live. Strap
yourself in, hold on
tight and let yourself fly! Grow your
wildest wishes, create your own
wonderland, unleash your power!

M. Hogan (c) 2018

“Truth by Tyrone Bittings” © Nikki Grimes, 2018
from BETWEEN THE LINES (Nancy Paulsen Books)

I haven’t written much poetry since participating almost daily in Laura Shovan’s Ekphrastic Poetry Project last month. It felt good to get back into it and to attempt a new form.  On-line challenges like that project, the weekly 15 Words or Less prompt (Thanks, Laura Purdie Salas!), the Slice of Life and the monthly Ditty challenge really motivate me to write regularly and to stretch my writing muscles into new territories. I so appreciate the creativity and generosity of the involved authors.

17 thoughts on “SOLC 2018–Day 7: Golden Shovels

  1. glenda funk says:

    I love the golden shovel poems you’ve written. Nikki Grimes uses that format in her new book and offers a superb explanation of the format. I never write poetry, but I’m going to check out the resources you mention. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. margaretsmn says:

    These are great! The lines seem to lend themselves to poems of direct address. I love your line about poems cracking open your ribs. I’ve been following Michelle’s blog for a while now and find a home there full of inspiration and encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dana says:

    I never heard of the Golden Shovel in poetry. That’s really fun! I always had fun with haiku styles but this looks like a way to let your imagination soar. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you’re a huge fan of TLD, Molly, because I’m a huge fan of your poetry! I have such a hard time with Golden Shovels, but you make them look easy. The imagery of your first one is breathtaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ureadiread says:

    I’d never encountered Golden Shovel poems before. Thanks for introducing them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alice Nine says:

    This does it…. I am going to write a shovel poem for tomorrow’s slice. Now to find a short quote so I don’t have to write too many lines. 🙂 Your poems are great. And you explain the process so well; I’ll just have to link back to your page in my slice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Alice, I can’t wait to see your golden shovel. Have fun! You might want to check out the challenge on Today’s Little Ditty and choose a line from there. There are lots of short ones 🙂 and then you can share your poem on the March padlet.


      • Alice Nine says:

        Thanks I’ll look at it! I bent the rule a bit and used a quote instead of a line from a poem but it fit where I was today. I’ll do a poem line next time!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Aida says:

    I really need to learn how to write poem with you. I can spend a day long only to write one line of poem. -_-

    Liked by 1 person

  8. […] I stopped by Nix the Comfort Zone  where Slice No. 7 is all about golden shovel poems. That future day became today. I decided to […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. katswhiskers says:

    I am so late coming to this, Molly – and in truth, I went searching for it, after reading ‘The Power of a Poem’ on the padlet. So good!

    Just wanted to tell you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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