Thursday, June 11, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Celebrating Nikki Grimes

Peonies have passed the baton to primroses in my garden.

In My Yard

Cat stalking the fledgling on the fence has thievery
in mind. The young bird is
ill-equipped for flight, never
mind lacking the defenses to
protect itself from tooth and claw. Luckily, I will be
the disrupter. In my yard, the value of all lives is condoned.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

This week, the Poetry Friday community celebrates poet and author, Nikki Grimes. One of my favorite of Nikki's books is One Last Word. I fell in love with the golden shovel form through this book, and it taught me so much about the Harlem Renaissance at the same time. 

Today's poem uses the golden shovel form, and the striking line comes from one of the poems Nikki posted on Twitter recently:

is never to be condoned.
Still, let's do some review:
Master muggers
Africa's antiquities,
pirated her ore,
heisted her humans,
and stole the land
on which we stand—
for starters.
TV nabbers?
Amateur grabbers.

Copyright 2020 by Nikki Grimes 6/1/20

Nikki frequently shares about her love of her garden and of nature, so I chose my own garden at the setting for this poem. Nikki is not shy about taking a stand with her poetry. In this poem, "my yard" stands for every place I have influence. I originally used the word "intercessor" instead of "disrupter," but that seemed like too much of a "White Savior" word. I like aligning myself more with those who are disrupting the narrative of White Supremacy, disrupting the canon of Western literature, disrupting the downward spiral of our democracy.

It was Irene's idea that we celebrate Nikki Grimes today, and she's got the Poetry Friday roundup at Live Your Poem.

(There's one slot still open on the roundup schedule for July-December...)


  1. Mary Lee, Nikki's poems are always thought-provoking. I do like your golden shovel and how you set up the word thievery as the focal point in the beginning.

  2. I saw Nikki's poem & a few others, too, on twitter, all thoughtful & pointed, which I liked. Like your poem, Mary Lee, broadening your outlook means action, something more than simple agreeing. Thanks!

  3. I see two powerful poems here. Golden shovels bloom across the blogs today--isn't it great? What a wonderful way to show how much the form re-introduced to us by Nikki has made an impact in the poetry world. And, I love that you saved the fledgling. And, so about looting as if Africa weren't looted repeatedly. What a well made point in her poem, Thievery. That's a keeper.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on "intercessor" and "disrupter." And thank you for valuing all lives in your "yard." You inspire, Mary Lee! xo

  5. Your posts always inspire me and your golden shovel wonderfully echoes Nikki's work with so much feeling. Thank you, Mary Lee.

  6. Love your golden shovel, Mary Lee. Thanks for also sharing Nikki's Twitter poem that you got your striking line from. Not being on social media, I know I miss out on great poetry sometimes. :)

  7. Great golden shovel, Mary Lee -- love the symbolic meaning, especially timely now. And thanks too, for posting Nikki's poem. :)

  8. I love what you have done here! You honored Nikki's words with the added punch of "The value of all lives is condoned." Yes!

  9. Close call for your fledgling! Love the way your golden shovel reflects on nature and our current climate--and honors Nikki's fabulous poem.

  10. What a great protective poem, Mary Lee. And Nikki's poem--mercy.

  11. Great stuff, Mary Lee!

  12. We need more "disrupters" who will watch over all… Thanks for your voice and keen poem Mary Lee, and for Nikki's poem too!

  13. I'm so glad you disrupted the cat's plans! It seems to me that Golden Shovels are a bit like kaleidoscopes: each new poem refracts and highlights words in different ways, all the while deepening the meaning of the original line. Well done, Mary Lee!


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