In tribute to great American poet and civil rights activist Gwendolyn Brooks, the Kelly Writers House welcomed editors Patricia Smith and Peter Kahn of the newly released "Golden Shovel Anthology" in a spoken-word poetry event Wednesday evening.
“This project is steeped in generosity," Kahn said. "Without the generosity of Gwendolyn Brooks, none of us would be here today.”
"The Golden Shovel Anthology" is a collection of poems written in the the style of Golden Shovel — a new poetic form developed by Terrence Hayes that incorporates original text from Brooks's poems into the ends of every line of new poetry. Golden Shovel poems can be read from left to right, as part of the new poem and from top to bottom at the right hand margin to read an original of Brooks.
Brooks was an American poet whose work delves into the struggles of common people. With "The Golden Shovel Anthology," Brooks’s work has seen a revival in times of political turmoil in the United States.
Smith discussed the process of compiling "The Golden Shovel Anthology," which was published in January of 2017, just as Trump was inaugurated. She then spoke about her individual journey in finding her poetic voice, before sharing her personal poem.
Kahn also shared a personal poem named for the line "Grayed in, and gray" from Brooks's poem "Kitchenette Building." He also discussed memories of meeting Brooks and spoke of her approachability, generosity and ability to connect with others.
As the inventor of this poetic style, Hayes would often visit Kahn and mentor his students. Kahn said Hayes would send copies of his book with highly personalized messages to each of the students with whom he had worked. Hayes never lost his humility, Kahn said, despite his accolades.
“He’s a legend but he always makes people feel important,” Kahn said.
Other performers included Penn students, students from nearby schools and members of the Excelano Project, a student poetry collective that presented their own original poems written in the Golden Shovel style and some read original poems written by Brooks herself.
Excelano Project member and College freshman Imani Davis noted the significance of the event and said the event engaged the audience effectively.
“What is important to me, and I think also to a lot of poets in the Black community, is bringing people into the room," David said. "And I think we accomplished that."
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