I am, as I always do, entering the struggle-against-the-form phase I always enter at the start of April. With some forms, this “phase” ran the course of the month. I do hope that won’t be the case this year.
My golden shovel issues:
- I love the poems that I’m pulling lines from, so when I select a line, it’s so tied to the poem and scavenging it for parts feels disrespectful, a little blasphemous (like tonight’s poem).
- Articles and prepositions don’t make good line-enders, and using them at the end of a line annoys me. Terrance Hayes’ original golden shovel worked perfectly well in part because Gwendolyn Brooks didn’t use any of these kinds words in “We Real Cool.”
- Having a list of words I must use feels restrictive, makes me feel as if nothing I’m writing is really mine.
Yeah. I need to get out of my way and just write, right? Would that it could be so simple.
The source text for tonight’s poem is Lucille Clifton’s “Jasper Texas 1998” … which, of course, is all about that first bullet point. Clifton’s poem is so painful and powerful. Using any piece of it in this way feels like calling her out of her name. But I want to use Clifton’s poems as my source texts this month, and nearly all of her poems hit me the way “Jasper Texas 1998” does.
Nerve enough I cannot tell if you dreamed with me or if only I had nerve enough, only I leapt. We were still -- not close, not touching, alive, wanting. I saw the corners of your eyes laugh. I imagined things that could pass between us but would not. Would not. I exhaled slowly, letting my breath bear the disappointment and shame of it.
Maybe the smallest of moves in the right direction, even though all three of my issues are in full flower here.
National Poetry Month 2021: the Golden Shovel
As I’ve done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. The “Golden Shovel” was created by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. I learned about it from my friend Sonia (aka Red Emma). I’ll be using Lucille Clifton’s poems as my starting point this month. Here are the rules:
- Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
- Use each word in the line (or lines) as the end word for each line in your poem.
- Keep the end words in order.
- Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
- The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.
If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.
Should be interesting!