Writing Prompt – Golden Shovel Poems

If you’re wanting a poetry form to kickstart writing, the golden shovel is a great form to try! It’s a format developed by Terrance Hayes, inspired by a Gwendolyn Brooks poem. (You can click on their names to read their poems.)


  1. Find a strike line* (any length) from an existing poem and attribute it. (Who wrote the original line, and in what poem?)
  2. Put each word from the strike line at the end of individual lines in your poem… If your strike line has four words, your poem has four lines. (The strike line in my poem is written in bold. )
  3. Now fill in the gaps to make your poem. Lines can be any length and on any topic.

* the strike line does not have to be a complete line, but it must be an unbroken chunk of text – either a portion of a line, or spread across multiple lines.

Photo Credit: Tom Plevey

Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My Country‘ (such a rousing poem) inspired my Australia Day golden shovel, above. (The original post, Is There Anybody There? has more information about Dorothea and her poem.) I’m rather chuffed that my golden shovel is now hanging on the wall in the Mackellar Centre in Gunnedah, and I have this lovely photo with Dorothea looking over our shoulders at the presentation.

I wrote ‘Seeds of Hope‘ thinking of cruel words – but the title turned it into a positive little poem. That’s the power of words – used for hope, or harm.

I don’t think I’ve read a golden shovel I haven’t loved – and I am constantly surprised by what (and how) I write, when I’m crafting a golden shovel. The form seems to draw words out so eloquently. And it banishes the blank page!

I Don't Eat My Friends_Prompt_Thumbnail

Use this page (left), to try our own golden shovel using a line from ‘I Don’t Eat My Friends’, taken from my verse novel, ‘Too Many Friends’.