. . . . A Golden Opportunity . . . .

The editors of The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks are pleased to announce

The Golden Shovel Poetry Prize for Young Writers.

We welcome submissions from students ranging in age from 12 – 22 years beginning October 6th, 2017. Submissions will close at midnight on February 1st, 2018.

What is a Golden Shovel? And How do I write one?

The Golden Shovel form was created by Terrance Hayes with his poem, “The Golden Shovel,” after Gwendolyn Brooks which appears in his National Book Award winning book, Lighthead. Terrance imbeds the words of Ms. Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool” vertically down the right margin of his own poem. The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, edited by Peter Kahn, Ravi Shankar and Patricia Smith, was created to experiment with this new form, and to celebrate the literary legacy and generous spirit of Ms. Brooks, the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize and for 32 years, the state Poet Laureate of Illinois.

The anthology has new work from a range of writers, including high school and college students alongside established writers from different genres. The review in Booklist says,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.”

At its heart, the Golden Shovel form is about paying homage.  It’s about borrowing from someone you admire to create something new. This student competition will create a second “generation” of Golden Shovel poems, paying homage to two individuals, not just one. In other words, Terrance Hayes (the father) borrowed from Gwendolyn Brooks (the grandmother) and now student X (the daughter) borrows from both his/her father (a line from Terrance’s poem) and, through lineage, his/her grandmother (Ms. Brooks).  I.e., “Junkyard” by Student X after Terrance Hayes, after Gwendolyn Brooks.  


For the sake of this competition, poems must be submitted in English (they may, of course, be translated from another language, as long as they adhere to the Golden Shovel form in the English version).

Your Golden Shovel poem must be original, must follow the “rules” below, and must not be published elsewhere. (Simultaneous submissions are not accepted.)  You may only submit once.

There is no entry fee.

Middle/High School Division (roughly 12-18 years old)—open to anyone attending middle school, junior high, high school, high school correspondence/GED program, and, outside of the U.S., secondary school, sixth form or “college.”

*If you are under 18 at the time of publication, we will need parental permission in order to publish your poem.

Undergraduate Division (roughly 18-22 years old)—open to anyone attending an undergraduate institution (junior college, community college, college or university)


*The winning poet from the Middle/High School Division will receive a $500 check, and the winning poet in the Undergraduate Division will receive a $1000 check (both pending completion of W9 tax form, etc.).

*Both winning poems (one from each division) will also receive publication on the Academy of American Poets website and the next edition of The Golden Shovel Anthology.


*Up to three runners-up in each division will also be published in next addition of The Golden Shovel Anthology.

*Winners and runners-up will also receive a free copy of the anthology.


For the sake of this competition, you must draw your borrowed line from a poem in The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. You may borrow from Terrance Hayes’s original “The Golden Shovel,” from one of Gwendolyn Brooks’s five poems in the anthology, to any of the 300 other poems in the anthology.

Choose 5-14 words out of a sentence or line to use to create your 5-14 line Golden Shovel poem by vertically running those words as the last word in each of your lines.  See examples.

We recommend you consider looking at the “source” poem, as well, for insight and inspiration.

Ready to submit?


  1. Click on THIS LINK if you’d like to submit as a MIDDLE OR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT, or click on THIS LINK if you’d like to submit as UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT.
  2. If you do not have one already, create a free Submittable account.
  3. Fill in all of the details required on the contest page in Submittable for your division.
  4. Submit ONE poem, 5-14 lines in length, following the Golden Shovel rules as above via Submittable.

Note:  this is a “blind” judging process.  Please DO NOT include your name on the poem that you upload NOR in the Title of the file! Within Submittable, for our administrative purposes, you should include your contact information in the field where you are invited to do so.



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