“Throughout this anthology, more than 60 other well-known Brooks poems can be read the same way, with lines from ‘The Mother’ and ‘The Bean Eaters’ tripping down the right-hand side of the page. The anthology ends with ‘Non-Brooks Golden Shovels’ and ‘Variations and Expansions on the Form.’ The cross-section of poets with varying poetics and styles gathered here is only one of the many admirable achievements of this volume.”
—Claudia Rankine, The New York Times, August 2017
“The editors, including tireless poetry advocate Kahn, of this unique, new addition to the Gwendolyn Brooks legacy put together a richly diverse set of poets working with the most unusual and fertile new poetic form created in recent years. National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes invented the Golden Shovel, which he illuminates in his stirring foreword, writing, “Because where do poems come from if not other poems?” In a Golden Shovel poem, the last words in each line are taken from a Brooks poem. A veritable who’s who of contemporary poets tried their hands at this encoded homage, including Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, Joy Harjo, Billy Lombardo, Sharon Olds, Alberto Ríos, Tracy K. Smith, and Timothy Yu. Beautifully introduced by Patricia Smith, this is a beguiling and mind-expanding anthology shaped by formal expertise and deep appreciation for the complexity and resonance of Brooks’ work and profoundly nurturing influence. In all, a substantial and dynamic contribution to American literature.”
—Booklist, May 2017
"Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry back in 1950. A new book honors her work in using a form called the golden shovel, developed by poet Terrance Hayes. In The Golden Shovel Anthology, poets select a line from a poem of Brooks’s and use it as the closing line or lines in a poem of their own. The result is an expansive and extraordinary assemblage edited by poets Peter Kahn, Ravi Shankar, and Patricia Smith.”
—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe, March 2017
The Golden Shovel Anthology celebrates the life and work of poet and civil rights icon Gwendolyn Brooks through a dynamic new poetic form, the Golden Shovel, created by National Book Award–winner Terrance Hayes.
The last words of each line in a Golden Shovel poem are, in order, words from a line or lines taken from a Brooks poem. The poems are, in a way, secretly encoded to enable both a horizontal reading of the new poem and vertical reading down the right-hand margin of Brooks’s original. An array of writers—including Pulitzer Prize winners, T. S. Eliot Prize winners, National Book Award winners, and National Poet Laureates—have written poems for this exciting new anthology: Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Nikki Giovani, Sharon Olds, Tracy K. Smith, Mark Doty, Sharon Draper, and Julia Glass are just a few of the contributing poets.
The poems found here will inspire a diversity of readers, teachers, and writers of poetry while at the same time providing remarkable access for newcomers, making it ideal for classrooms. The Golden Shovel Anthology will also honor Brooks with publication in 2017, the centenary of her birth.
Inception and implosion, Chicago’s grit and grandiosity all come together in the finite poetic power of the original Slam igniter, renowned poet Marc Kelly Smith and his retrospect denotation, Ground Zero.
A cultural, community, and adversarial figure, Smith has challenged the status quo and raised new questions about an environment in a state of continuous calamity. Smith’s power and influence have inspired celebrated figures who cut their teeth on both the stage and the page under his watchful eye—always speaking in the traditions of Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks. Ground Zero challenges but pays homage to the thousand underbellies of Chicago with Smith’s wicked, cigarette-in-the-beer language: “I ain’t diggin’ no concrete coffin, / No backyard mausoleum / To keep me a pickle sweet aplenty / Plied with sardines and pork sausage wieners / Livin’ out the chance that some bubble-flesh victim / Will come puckered up and scabby lipped / To kiss me in the name of a new mankind.”
Ground Zero leaves no doubt. The Slampapi / instigator / visionary / you-may-love-me-or-hate-me-but-my-history-will-always-be-chiseled-in-everything-the-poetry-world-does-next collects a survey of his land and his experience, no matter how beautiful or flawed. This book lets the landmines of imagery and Chicago’s slow and uneasy drawl showcase one of our most original voices.
Winner, 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Finalist, 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
Winner, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the Poetry category
Winner, 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Winner, 2018 BCALA Best Poetry Award
Winner, Abel Meeropol Award for Social Justice
Finalist, Neustadt International Prize for Literature
Winner, 2021 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize
One of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today’s literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the "dark magicians," and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language— "her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses—one by one / by one she wrecks the casket’s spray. It’s how she / mourns—a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns"— as she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America’s most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history.
An award-winning author presents a portrait of Black America in the nineteenth century
Over the course of two decades, award-winning poet Patricia Smith has amassed a collection of rare nineteenth-century photographs of Black men, women, and children who, in these pages, regard us from the staggering distance of time.
Unshuttered is a vessel for the voices of their incendiary and critical era. Smith’s searing stanzas and revelatory language imbue the subjects of the photos with dynamism and revived urgency while she explores how her own past of triumphs and losses is linked inextricably to their long-ago lives:
We ache for fiction etched in black and white. Our eyes never touch. These tragic grays and bustles, mourners’
hats plopped high upon our tamed but tangled crowns, strain to disguise what yearning does with us.
The poet’s unrivaled dexterity with dramatic monologue and poetic form reanimates these countenances, staring back from such yesterdays, and the stories they may have told. This is one of American literature’s finest wordsmiths doing what she does best—unreeling history to find its fierce and formidable lyric.
This is an anthology of poems in the Age of Trump—and much more than Trump. These are poems that either embody or express a sense of empathy or outrage, both prior to and following his election, since it is empathy the president lacks and outrage he provokes.
There is an extraordinary diversity of voices here. The ninety-three poets featured include Elizabeth Alexander, Julia Alvarez, Richard Blanco, Carolyn Forché, Aracelis Girmay, Donald Hall, Juan Felipe Herrera, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Danez Smith, Patricia Smith, Brian Turner, Ocean Vuong, Bruce Weigl, and Eleanor Wilner. They speak of persecuted and scapegoated immigrants. They bear witness to violence: police brutality against African Americans, mass shootings in a school or synagogue, the rage inflicted on women everywhere. They testify to poverty: the waitress surviving on leftovers at the restaurant, the battles of a teacher in a shelter for homeless mothers, the emergency-room doctor listening to the heartbeats of his patients. There are voices of labor, in the factory and the fields. There are prophetic voices, imploring us to imagine the world we will leave behind in ruins lest we speak and act.
However, this is not merely a collection of grievances. The poets build bridges. One poet steps up to translate in Arabic at the airport; another walks through the city and sees her immigrant past in the immigrant present; another declaims a musical manifesto after the hurricane that devastated his island; another evokes a demonstration in the street, shouting in an ecstasy of defiance. The poets take back the language, resisting the demagogic corruption of words themselves. They assert our common humanity in the face of dehumanization.
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