One Last Word
I'd never heard of the golden shovel form of poetry. Basically
it pays tribute to another poet's work while adding a fresh and
personal spin. You take a short poem or a line from a longer poem and
use its words as the last words for each line of your new poem.
Here's an example from Nikki Grimes' One Last Poem. The original is
the first stanza of Clara Ann Thompson's Life And Death:
We live, and how intense is life!
So full of stress, so full of strife.
So full of hopes, so full of fears,
OF JOY AND SORROW, SMILES AND TEARS
And oh how fruitless is the quest
Unless we're striving for the best.
Grimes takes each stanza from this decades old poem to create the
portrait of a contemporary teen and the challenges he/she/they faces.
My favorite is Damien. (I'm capitalizing the words taken from the
original poem in both works).
No one cuts you any slack if you're a boy, especially OF
a particular hue, and you decide to find your JOY
in ballet. Never mind that it's tough as any sport, AND
gives you a perfect place to pack whatever SORROW
shadows you. Flex, point, leap, and you're all SMILES
before you know it! Dancing is demanding, too, AND
the strength it takes would leave most jocks in TEARS.
You see what Grimes has done there. This art form is the essence of
her book. Her originals are from the famous poets of the Harlem
Renaissance. Both they and her interpretations are well worth reading.
The illustrations add a further dimension of amazingness to the
anthology. Langston Hughes' Mother To Son (one of the most meaningful
poems ever written) and Nikki Grimes' Lessons are on the need to keep
striving even though life "ain't been no crystal stair." Christopher
Myers' interpretation shows a mother hugging her son in front of a
statue of Abraham Lincoln. Grimes' A Dark Date For Josh concerns the
difficult conversation a high school boy has with his parents when he
tells them he's taking a black girl to the prom. Jan Spivey
Gilchrist's tender interpretation shows the boy deep in thought and
the girl he obviously cares about.
My favorite picture is the one for A Safe Place. A girl walks
down a dreary city street past grim, grafiti covered walls. Under a
puffy coat, she is wearing bright red tights and tutu. She is
intently writing in a book. You get the feeling she is not only
staying safe from the ugliness all around her, but charting a brighter
future for herself. Her bold stride lets you know that nothing better
get in her way!
Readers who find a poet or illustrator to be of particular
interest are in luck. Biographies at the back include lists of
On a personal note, last Thursday I was very glad I was packing a
camera. I was crossing a bridge when I saw a beetle unlike any I'd
ever seen before, a good size insect with a shell that looked like
tweed cloth or maize corn. Fortunately it wasn't in any hurry and
posed nicely. I relocated it to less dangerous turf. Now I have
evidence in case someone, say that husband of mine, thinks it was the
product of my admittedly vivid imagination. (It was much too early in
the day for beer to be involved!)
A great big shout out goes out to entomologists who study the insects
who greatly outnumber us and their many mysteries.
Sent from my iPod