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One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

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In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance -- including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era -- by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using "The Golden Shovel" poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.

This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today's most exciting African American illustrators, who have created pieces of art based on Nikki's original poems. Featuring art by: Cozbi Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author's note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Awards for Planet Middle School:
2014 Garden State Teen Book Awards list
Nominated for the 2012 NCAAP Image Award - Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens
CCBC Choices 2012
2012 Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street
Nominated for the 2012-13Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Program

128 pages, Hardcover

First published January 3, 2017

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Nikki Grimes

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5 stars
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521 (34%)
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171 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 364 reviews
Profile Image for Akoss.
559 reviews52 followers
October 7, 2017
A few quick disclaimers:
- I am not into poems, unless we're talking school assignments.
- The closer I have ever gotten is by reading a few books written in verse.
- Before opening this book I knew next to nothing about the Harlem Renaissance. I knew of it but nothing more.

So, imagine how surprised I currently am that I enjoyed this book to a five star level. I have to return it to the library even though I don't want to. There is so much to unpack. There is so much for me to soak in. This book has it all, from raw and heartfelt depictions of African American's lives (past and present), to the celebration of blackness and a thriving life against all odds.

I'm afraid I don't have the adequate words to do this book justice. Grab a copy at the bookstore or library when you get the chance.
Profile Image for Octavia.
186 reviews16 followers
September 2, 2023
I Absolutely Adored..

• Jabari Unmasked (Nikki Grimes)

• Mother to Son (Langston Hughes) & Lessons (Nikki Grimes)

• No Images (Waring Cuney) & Blurred Beauty (Nikki Grimes)

Profile Image for Miss Nuding.
23 reviews7 followers
February 22, 2018
Beautiful poems, many of which using the style of the "golden shovel", a format of poetry involving using lines of poetry and re-formatting to create new poems. It was a refreshing style that aided the empowering tone of the collection well!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,519 reviews621 followers
March 31, 2018
A winning compilation of poems from the Harlem Renaissance, golden shovel poems by Nikki Grimes featuring passages from some or all of those original works and beautiful color illustrations by contemporary black artists (including Grimes herself). Definitely amazing!
Profile Image for Emily.
650 reviews
December 7, 2016
I started this collection of poetry last night and read it cover-to-cover, only stopping on p. 18 to recommend it to most of the 6-12 English teachers I know. In the collection, Grimes pays homage to poets from the Harlem Renaissance (some well-know, others less familiar) by presenting their poems and then writing her own "Golden Shovel poem" using either the HR poet's entire poem or a line from their poem as inspiration. The catch, Grimes has to end each of her lines with the original poet's words in sequence. Here's an example:

The line she selected from "The Minor Key" by Clara Ann Thompson reads, "A thousand hearts echo the sigh." So Grimes writes,

Anger is a hard itch to scratch; laughter a
secret tickle we let out in a thousand
sneezes, sometimes to camouflage cracked hearts;
love, envy, fear -- we all hear their echo.
Peel us to the core, we're all indistinguishable. Press the
solar plexus of any, you'll hear the selfsame sigh. (p. 92)

So beautiful...and genius, really, because each of Grimes's poems captures not only the tone of the original poem, but also the heart of its meaning. (And she regularly does this with the text of ENTIRE POEMS. Incredible.) The stories her poems tell provide contemporary narratives while simultaneously revealing how relevant the poems from the Harlem Renaissance continue to be today in their original form.

And the artwork: all by currently working African-American illustrators. Although my copy is an ARC and only includes a couple of full color illustrations, it's clear that this is going to be a breathtakingly beautiful book.

The collection is published for middle grade and YA readers, but it's really for everyone.
Profile Image for Brandi.
686 reviews31 followers
December 17, 2016
Nikki Grimes's "One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance" is an exceptional reference book for history and literature classes. It contains a short piece on the history of the Harlem Renaissance, artwork by noted artists, mini biographies for the poets featured, and an index. The author's own poetry, created with "The Golden Shovel Method" is also featured in this volume and would be excellent examples to use in a creative writing class. I would recommend this book to anyone.

I won my copy of this book from a giveaway on Goodreads and I appreciate the opportunity to read and review it.

*Note - I really enjoyed the artwork in this one.
Profile Image for Laura Harrison.
1,033 reviews113 followers
January 6, 2017
Absolutely wonderful. The addition of glorious illustrations by many of our very best picture book artists makes One Last Word just perfect.
Profile Image for Alex  Baugh.
1,954 reviews109 followers
March 9, 2017
One of the most extraordinary results of the Great Migration was an explosion of African American artistic endeavors during the 1920s and 1930s, a period known as the Harlem Renaissance. Art, dance, music, poetry, all artistic and cultural forms flourished during this time and Harlem became a mecca for African American artists.

Calling on some of the great poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Nikki Grimes has created an anthology of poems as only she can. She has paired some of the best poems by masters as Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer and Countee Cullen with poems of her own, but she has taken the pairing one step further and used a poetic form called the Golden Shovel, a form created to honor poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

A poet using Golden Shovel takes one or more lines from a poem and places the chosen words vertically in the right hand column. These words from the original poem become the last words of each line of poetry in the new poem. Let me give you an example of Golden Shovel from One Last Word:

Storm Ending
by Jean Toomer
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears...
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey -
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

Using the highlighted words from Toomer's poem, Grimes created this poem:

by Nikki Grimes
The truth is, every day we rise is like thunder -
a clap of surprise. Could be echoes of trouble, or blossoms
of blessing. You never know what garish or gorgeously
disguised memories-to-be might rain down from above.
So, look up! Claim that cloud with the silver lining. Our
job, if you ask me, is to follow it. See where it heads.

Grimes begins this volume with an original poem of her own that asks the question so many young people of color must be asking themselves today: how does one stay strong in a world where fear and hate are right outside the door? Each poem by the leading poets of the Harlem Renaissance is arranged somewhat thematically around this question, placed side by side with a contemporary poem by Grimes, all age appropriate and relevant to today young readers. And Grimes ends with another original poem that answers her opening question not with a pat answer but with a vision of hope. Two beautiful poems connected to each other by shared words across time and space.

One Last Word is a skillfully crafted homage to these great African American poets and the glory days of the Harlem Renaissance, a tribute to the heroes of poetry that influenced Nikki Grimes's development as a daring and original poet, who like her predecessors, is a voice and interpreter of her times.

Each poem has an accompanying illustration by some of today's best African American artists. Each illustration is done it the artists preferred medium and has a style of its own, giving the artwork the same sense of individuality that the poems.

Be sure to read both the front and back matter. There is short introduction to the Harlem Renaissance, as well as a more detailed description of the poetry form used and an Author's Note. Back matter includes biographies of the poets Grimes chose for this volume and the artists who contributed to it. Grimes has also included the sources she consulted to make One Last Word the incredible volume poetry it is.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley
Profile Image for Mary Lee.
3,008 reviews55 followers
December 23, 2016
There is so much to love about this book! It is a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance poets (short biographies in the end matter), has gorgeous illustrations, and is written in a unique (and challenging!) form -- the "Golden Shovel."

Thank you, Bloomsbury for this advance copy!

Full review here: http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2016/...
Profile Image for Krista.
671 reviews
February 3, 2019
I am NOT a fan of poetry most of the time. But I LOVED this collection from Nikki Grimes. I think Golden Shovel poems are genius...definitely want to share these with my kids this spring!
Profile Image for Phil J.
729 reviews56 followers
July 4, 2017
The Harlem Renaissance was amazing, and Nikki Grimes is okay. That's the problem. This collection alternates between classics of American poetry and fresh efforts by Grimes. I found myself wishing that the Grimes portions would end so that I could get back to the Harlem classics.

Grimes wrote this using a "golden shovel" technique, which means that she took one or more lines from a classic poem and wrote a new poem with each word from the old poem ending a line. For example, if I used a golden shovel on the first line of "Hope is the thing with feathers," then I would come up with a 6 line poem in which the first line ends with "hope," the second with "is," etc. This technique didn't do much for me. Grimes' poetry seemed to work in spite of it, rather than being enhanced by it.

Grimes' golden shovel poems are not usually related to the poem they're golden shoveling from, so there's not a strong connection, thematically, between the paired poems. Furthermore, sometimes Grimes use of English clashes with the wording in the line she's golden shoveled, which feels awkward. Lastly, sometimes she golden shovels an entire poem instead of just one line, which means that her poem is often several pages longer than the one she's shoveled from. It felt unbalanced, especially when the classic poems were the ones I wanted more of.

The illustrations are by a variety of leaders in the field. They ranged from good to outstanding. I think the high point of the whole book might have been the pairing of Grimes' evocative poem about "Ariana" and E.B. Lewis' accompanying painting on p. 75. I wish the painting had been signed, though. I had to dig around a bit to find out who had made it!
Profile Image for Linda.
251 reviews11 followers
June 26, 2017
Nikki Grimes is a brilliant writer/poet/artist. There are so many things I love about this book of poems. In the preface, she describes the Harlem Renaissance, the various art forms and talents that came from that place and time, and how they directly impacted her life and career. Wanting to pay tribute to the many brilliant authors who inspired her, she chose to do so using a form of poetry called The Golden Shovel which takes words from an existing poem and uses them to create a new poem. Seeing the resulting works gave me a new appreciation for Grimes’ mastery of words. Beautiful works from poets such as Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Gwendolyn Bennet and others are featured alongside Grimes’ heart-felt, thought-provoking and masterfully crafted works. In addition to the beautiful poems, several artists are highlighted with their stunning colorful images displayed throughout. The resource section in the back gives biographical information on all the poets and artists whose works are used in the book. Readers will come away with a true appreciation of the cherished history, the relatable themes, the beautiful words, and the level of talent and artistry required to create these poems using this unique style.
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
February 7, 2017
This book reads like a survey course on the literature of the Harlem Renaissance mixed with a Creative Writing course in which the author takes inspiration from the poets of that time period and creates modern masterpieces using a poetic form called the Golden Shovel. The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original. The result is must read poetry that is supported by original artwork from the top African American artists currently working.

Back matter includes biographies on the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and biographies on the artists who contributed pieces for this book.

The storytelling is so vivid and I'm blown away with what Grimes is able to accomplish thematically and lyrically using the Golden Shovel form.

Highly recommended for grades 5-8+; a solid title for exploring history, poetry, and topics of current concern for young people ranging from self-esteem to interracial dating.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,155 reviews4 followers
June 25, 2017
Absolutely stunning. Inspired by the works of seminar Harlem Renaissance-era poets, Grimes uses the "Golden Shovel" poetic form to create new poetry taking place in the modern day.

Her poetry is powerful and thought-provoking, and the illustrations (all done by prominent black illustrators) are the perfect complement to her words. There is also a preface, additional information about the Harlem Renaissance, author's note, information on the poetry form being used, short but sweet poet and artist biographies, sources and an index.

My favorites include the poem "Crucible of Champions" and the illustrations by E.B. Lewis and Frank Morrison. Everybody should pick up this book!!!
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,733 reviews32 followers
November 21, 2016
I am in awe of what Nikki Grimes has done in this collection. She has taken various poems published during the Harlem Renaissance and created shovel poems from lines, stanzas, and even entire poems. Her original works speak about the realities African Americans still face. Sadly, some of the contemporary poems show us that the issues that were relevant during the Harlem Renaissance are still present today.

I want to thank NetGalley for this ARC. I have already preordered a copy for my classroom library and will incorporate the book during my poetry month lessons.
Profile Image for Shannon.
1,587 reviews
April 8, 2017
This book of poetry is wonderful, in part because of its application in the classroom (traditional or homeschool). Grimes uses the Golden Shovel - a technique where an author takes one line of a poet's work to craft a new poem. For this book, Grimes uses Harlem renaissance poetry, alternating with her own works inspired by them.

I can't wait to use this technique with my middle schooler - it seems to me a less stressful way to dip into poetry and also a way to meditate on a moving poem.
Profile Image for Christy Broderick⁷.
538 reviews11 followers
April 30, 2018
Nikki Grimes does an amazing job by taking bits (or all of the lines) of an original poem & turning them into a piece of art using the Golden Shovel method 💕
Profile Image for Maegan (The Slinky Serpent).
18 reviews3 followers
February 20, 2019
With only a few short days left of BHM, I was in the mood for some poetry and decided to borrow the ebook from my local library pick up Nikki Grimes' "One Last Word". I wasn't disappointed.

Now, admittedly, the book is MG, so while I did appreciate and even like some of her poems, most of them were a little childish. This is great for any young black, budding poets with its messages of empowerment and showing that we are not defined by our color or others perceptions but by our actions and our hearts. In her collection Nikki Grimes uses a form that I had never heard of, golden shovel. In this type of poetry the poet takes either a full-length short poem or one line from a longer one and uses each word to end of her "new" poem. Grimes formatted her book so that each of her reconstructed poems were lead by the original poet's work. The theme of the book is the Harlem Renaissance and, Besides Langston Hughes, Grimes incorporated a myriad of black Renaissance poets that, seemingly otherwise, would have simply been lost to time. Two of my favorite poets in Grimes' book were Clara Ann Thompson and Paul Laurence Dunbar, I was elated to see that the author incorporated a short biography of each poet, I will definitely be looking into more of these two artists' work. The included art done by different artists was also a great addition to the book. All in all it is a solid, quick read, I will probably re-read some of the poems before my loan expires, three stars.
Profile Image for Becky.
5,417 reviews122 followers
June 21, 2017
First sentence: I was thirteen years old when I read my poetry aloud in front of an audience for the first time.

Premise/plot: Nikki Grimes shares some of her favorite poems from the Harlem Renaissance in her newest book. After sharing the original poem, she follows it with one of her own. All of Grimes' poems are written in the poetry form Golden Shovel.
The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original.

The framework for this poetry collection is a brother and sister discouraged by watching the news come to find hope and inspiration from reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance. The introductory poem asks, "Can I really find fuel for the future in the past?" In the last poem, we return to the framework. He has found his answer: "The past is a ladder that can help you keep climbing."

The collection includes poems from Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, William Waring Cuney, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Clara Ann Thompson, and Jean Toomer. (Biographies for each poet can be found in the back matter.)

My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I was unfamiliar with the Golden Shovel form before picking this one up, but, WOW what an incredible idea. I imagine it is very challenging yet extremely satisfying to write. I loved the poems Grimes shared. I was familiar with some of these poets, but, not all of them. I think I'll have to seek out more Georgia Douglas Johnson. I also loved Grimes' new poems. What this collection does really well is show how timeless poetry is, and how relevant it remains in our lives.

If you read only one poetry book this year, I'd recommend it be this one. It's SO good.
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews109 followers
January 4, 2017
Master poet Grimes has created a book of poetry that celebrates the poets from the Harlem Renaissance who influenced her. Through her amazing skill, she pays homage to their original poems by creating her own from their words. Using a form called Golden Shovel, she takes lines from their poems and uses them as the final words in the lines of her poems. Both the Harlem Renaissance poetry and Grimes’ speak to the experience of African Americans and for Grimes, African American children and teens. These are poems about difficulties, about racism, about hate and about love.

As I read these poems, I realized over and over again how very skilled Grimes is. It is most stunning when you remember the form she is using, because her poetry flows and dances as if entirely unrestricted. Still, the bold words tie the two poems together and one remembers the strict form she is using and the grace with which she handles it. Grimes speaks directly to children and teens of color in this book, making sure they see themselves and their experiences on the page. That they see the racism, the bullying and the dangers around them. She also makes sure though that they see a strong community, voices to raise in protest and the familial love around them.

The book is beautifully designed with each page washed with yellows and sometimes lined in blue. It is illustrated by some of the top African-American children’s book illustrators working today. It is a stunning collection of art, filled with emotion, pain and endurance.

Masterful, skilled and very timely, this book of poetry elevates us all and sings to the skies that African-American children are valuable and vital in this world. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
October 20, 2017
Renowned children’s and young adult novelist Nikki Grimes shares her love of poetry and the Harlem Renaissance poets who inspired her first childhood writings in this moving collection for grades 5 and up. Grimes has created new poems derived from lines in works by well known poets such as Countee Cullen and Waring Cuney. Sharing modern and classic side by side Grimes connects the artful expression of the Harlem Renaissance to the present black experience.

Grimes includes a thorough description of the poetry form that she used to create the poetry for this book, called the Golden Shovel. This method uses lines or parts of a poem then creating a new poem where the last word in each line is one from the original. For teachers this a great way to introduce students to poetry writing. To first find inspiration through a poem of their choosing and then building upon what brought about their connection with the work.

Grimes also includes brief biographies of each of the artists and poets included in this collection. For the classroom this is a wonderful way to incorporate the importance of the Harlem Renaissance into literature study. This could serve as an introduction to further study of one of these great poets.
Profile Image for Czechgirl.
368 reviews14 followers
February 27, 2017
Beautifully written and crafted. Thought provoking line by line. Here are a few lines from the poem, "On Bully Patrol" I wanted to comment on:

Worse yet--again, like--my child tarries
over each assigned task far too long,
ever seeking impossible perfection in
the doing of it. Never mind that the
symmetry she desires is beyond the human depth.
I sigh, recalling the ultimate value of
such doggedness, the strength implied, the
sturdy beauty of a stubborn seed.

I bet Grimes "tarried" over the task of writing this book. And how ever long it took her to accomplish this, thank you Ms. Grimes. Even though Grimes may feel it's imperfections, I feel she achieved the "impossible perfection". She was able to teach me, a Caucasian, the feelings of how an African American living in Harlem felt--"beyond human depth". This book was probably her "stubborn seed" but I see the "sturdy beauty" of it.

This book will not be a read aloud for my 2017-2018 students. This book will serve as a mentor text. I can not wait to share and study the beauty of this book with my students.
Profile Image for Todd R.
35 reviews1 follower
June 14, 2018
This book is a beautiful collection of poems written by Nikki Grimes. Grimes found inspiration for her poems from poets such as Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas, and others of the Harlem Renaissance. Grimes used a poetry form known as the "Golden Shovel" to write the poems. Per Grimes, "The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety , or a line from a poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original" (Page 6). In her poems, you can see the portions of the poems that were from the original poem by the bold words. The poems are very powerful and teach the reader the struggles faced with racial injustice and how during the most difficult of times there is still reason to hope. Not only are the poems powerful but the pictures in the book are stunning and tell a story all of their own. I highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Glenda.
650 reviews44 followers
November 27, 2017
In “One Last Word” poet Nikki Grimes juxtaposes poetry from the Harlem Renaissance with her original poems inspired by the HR poems using a technique called “The Golden Shovel.” Grimes explains the technique and its challenges in the collection’s introduction. Illuminating both her poems and those from the HR are striking works of art.

This is a gorgeous collection that will cause a young generation of readers to fall in love w/ the HR poets. Grimes’s poems inspire me to be a better person, to live a better life. They are that relevant in our often cruel and disturbing world. “When Time grinds us fine as grain, and we lie / without skin or bone or heart, who’ll be able to tell us apart?”
Profile Image for Serenity.
1,066 reviews9 followers
June 9, 2017
I got an eARC of this book from NetGalley but it expired before I sat down to read it :(. But after hearing Nikki Grimes on the All the Wonders podcast, I had to read it. I finally got it from the library, and it is just as awesome as you have probably heard. I am not generally a poetry reader, so I am not an expert by any means, but this book is so moving. Not only will it readers be exposed to a number of Harlem Renaissance poets, but Grimes' original poetry is outstanding. The illustrations are also wonderful. A must have for any middle school and high school poetry collection.
Profile Image for Ranell Cox.
78 reviews2 followers
July 7, 2017
This is a fabulous book to use for black history month or poetry month. It is also a wonderful way to introduce kindness and discussion of our differences and history though poetry. I love the way Nikki Grimes took poetry and made her own from the words of an entire poem or line from a poem. She made a connection of past and present using a style called "Golden Shovel" that I had not heard of. This would make a wonderful poetry lesson and a great idea for creating your own poems. Very well done.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
244 reviews
March 8, 2018
What a cool concept that Nikki Grimes has brought to life with this book! I don't think I've read anything like this in recent years, and I really appreciated it. I love that she is bringing light to poetry from the Harlem Renaissance, but also adding her own stories and interweaving them into the older poems. The results are quite beautiful and impressive - especially paired with the gorgeous illustrations. I don't know that every student will flock to this, but poetry lovers and those who enjoy exploring identity and culture in that medium will LOVE it.
Profile Image for Samantha.
2,886 reviews9 followers
August 30, 2017
This is a great work of poetry. It definitely made me want to try my hand at Golden Shovel poetry--a form where you are inspired by a line of another poem and create a new one using one sentence of the original as inspiration. I loved the interplay of the poems from the Harlem Renaissance and Grimes' interpretation, as well as the illustrations. I could see this being a great read but also great for poetry units.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 364 reviews

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