Friday, June 9, 2017

Poetry Friday: Growing a Golden Shovel

Photo: Wolfgang Forstmeier
(Posting this a week late due to travel--and general procrastination.)

June's poetry challenge was the "golden shovel," a form created by poet Terrance Hayes when he took Gwendolyn Brooks's mesmerizing poem "The Pool Players; Seven at the Golden Shovel," and used its lines as end words for an entirely new poem.  (See his intricate poem, here.)

Or to put it another way,  Hayes grew a new poem from one he loved, and made it something astonishingly fresh.

And that, my friends, is what the Poetry Sisters are doing this month, too---only we are growing our new poems from the rich soil of Gerard Manley Hopkins' gorgeous poem Pied Beauty:

Glory be to God for dappled things – 
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 

All things counter, original, spare, strange; 
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) 
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 
                                Praise him.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)
So much to choose from!  Each line is ripe with juicy words! What to pick, what to pick....???  In the end, I decided to use two lines, from the heart of Hopkins' poem:

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 

(I also took as my title his opening word.) 


We hope to be fresh
or even hot, as firecoal;
we hope to chew on an old chestnut

cracking open guarded words, until all falls
newly to earth. But if finches
require nine primary remiges on their wings

and twelve retrices on their tails---a landscape
of feathers carefully plotted
since the Middle Miocene age and

dappled evermore---to fly, then we, too, must be pieced
into lifting lines, and thrust from the fold
to be made fertile or laid fallow,

bouncing in flight like true finches and
tearing the earth as we dive to plough.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My Poetry Sisters' earlier posts of Golden Shovels (truly stunning---I mean, just WOW) can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by poet Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading.


  1. Glory. Your words are a glory.


    1. Thanks, Mary Lee. I have to say that knowing YOU were hosting this week's Poetry Friday made feel more relaxed about posting my Poetry Sisters challenge so late. Your blog is a marvelous place.

  2. This is really lovely, Sara. I love the comparison to finches and the bouncing in flight. And I adore a "landscape of feathers."

    Isn't it amazing how we can take the same words and turn them into such different creations?

    1. I know! This time, in particular, was a revelation, since we didn't share ahead of time.

  3. Ooh - cracking open guarded words -- that's amazing. And, of course, you went that extra mile to find out about finches! Well done for teaching us something new, with such lush language!

    1. I *always* have to crack open my guard to write. Every time. As for finches, they just called to me. It's a fun word to say, but more than that, I realized how little I knew about the ubiquitous things. So...I went and looked. They really do "bounce" in flight, which is a characteristic of only some birds.

  4. The opening stanza is filled with imagery of the five senses! Things to see, hear, taste, and feel in just a few lines.

    1. Thanks, Laura. I had to keep up with the gorgeous imagery in my Poetry Sisters' poems. I hope you saw those last week.

  5. You've presented me with a few wonderful new words to add to my vocabulary - just one of the benefits of this Poetry Friday community!

  6. WOW is right! I love the imagery in your poem.


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