Search Roosevelt University
cover of Golden Shovel Anthology

The Golden Shovel Anthology International Student Competition

More in this section...

The Golden Shovel Anthology International Poetry Competition

February 1st, 2018 deadline

Open to middle school, high school and college students living in the United States and internationally, the Golden Shovel Anthology Competition invites young adults to submit original poems that adhere to the Golden Shovel form following the competition rules. Submissions are open from now until February 1, 2018. No fee is required to submit.   

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.  In this poem, Hayes embeds 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 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 calls it, “...a substantial and dynamic contribution to American literature."

At its heart, the Golden Shovel form is about paying homage.  This student competition will create a second “generation” of Golden Shovel poems, paying homage to two individuals, not just one.  

See below for full information about rules and guidelines for the competition.  Resources are also available to support teachers who want to encourage their students to enter, as well as to help students and teachers get copies of the anthology with special discounts and potential donations.

2nd Generation Poem Example


By Adam Levin
after Kyle Dargan, after Gwendolyn Brooks
(Borrowing the line, "Were the choice mine--before beauty, what?" from Kyle Dargan's poem, "Sustenance" which borrowed from Gwendolyn Brooks's poem, "The Children of the Poor.")

When I was a kid, I wasn't afraid of were-
wolves-but Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter always shook me from the
sheets onto the floor of my bedroom. One night, my father shamed me for my choice
of fear, told me I should be scared of dictators and their mine-
fields instead. And suddenly, the world was somehow less and more scary than before.

In 2017, I miss my old nightmares, and their simple beauty
Now, my biggest fear is "when" something scary will happen instead of "what."

Divisions, Prizes and Judge

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 may need parent permission in order to publish your poem.

Undergraduate College/University division (roughly 18-22 years old)

Open to anyone attending an undergraduate institution (junior college, community college, college or university)


The winning poets will receive:

  • A $1000 check for the Undergraduate College/University division 
  • $500 check for Middle/High School division (both pending completion of W9 tax form, etc.)
  • Publication on the Academy of American Poets website and the next edition of The Golden Shovel Anthology.


  • Up to three runners-up 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.

Final Judge:

Nora Brooks Blakely (Gwendolyn Brooks’s daughter)

Guidelines & Rules


  • 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.
  •  There is a limit each month to the number of submissions we can receive.  Enter as early as you can to ensure your submission is received.


  • 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.
  • Do NOT include your name in the body of the poem (it should only be included in the Submittable information).
  • DO include the author’s name you borrowed from and the line you borrowed in the body of the poem.

Example for the document you upload: 

Golden Shovel poet:  Terrance Hayes 
Borrowed line:  “the cue sticks mean we/ are rubbed by light”
Followed by your poem title and the body of your poem.

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

Submission deadline is February 1st, 2018.

  1. Click the appropriate link: Middle/High School Division | Undergraduate/University Division
  2. 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 below via Submittable.

Note:  this is a “blind” judging process.  You should NOT include your name on the poem that you upload. 

We read entries anonymously. Do NOT include your name or personal information in the file name or in the title of the manuscript. Within Submittable, for our administrative purposes, you should include your contact information. 

Upload your 5-14 line Golden Shovel poem as Doc, DocX, PDF

Make sure to include:

  • The name of the Golden Shovel Anthology author you borrowed from (for example:  Terrance Hayes)
  • The line you borrowed from their poem [for example:  “the cue sticks mean we/ are rubbed by light” (a line from Terrance’s poem, “The Golden Shovel”)]
Resources and Sponsors

1. To step-by-step lesson plan, with sample poems

2. Purchase a copy of The Golden Shovel Anthology (including a discounted rate for students and educators, and other special offers).  Once on the page, please scroll down to the Student Competition tab.

3. To articles about the Golden Shovel form:

4. To a small selection of Golden Shovel poems that you can draw from for the competition if you can’t get ahold of the anthology:


Other Partners