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"After" Question (1 Viewer)

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
You've likely seen poems published with this after the title:

after E. E. Cummings

(or any other famous poet in a poem that makes full use of the named poet's work).

I looked everywhere I could think to find an answer to my question about when is the use of "after" most appropriate. No luck (except for one instance). So I turn to you, hoping you can help me get that additional information.

I know for sure it's used for a golden shovel. That's a great poem by Terrence Hayes that makes full use of an unforgettable poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Hayes is also said to have invented the form/ type. I comfortably use "after" in my own golden shovels. (Hayes' golden shovels use every word of Brooks' poem, in order, each of her poem's words are the last words on the right side of Hayes' poem.)

But I've seen "after" used many times in other types of poetry and am trying to figure out in what instances would it be most appropriate or even most necessary for other types of poetry.

I would also love to know if one day I decided to write a golden shovel making use of Hayes' golden shovel (based on Brooks' poem) . . .I wonder how the attribution line might look. I don't plan on doing that but imagine there are poets somewhere trying that very thing. It might be fun to try when playing with writer's block.

So you can experience two of Hayes's brilliant and creative golden shovels on Brooks'' poem, if you haven't already, here's the title, the byline, and the "after". And the link.


The Golden Shovel​


after Gwendolyn Brooks


Not long ago Hayes was editor of an anthology of golden shovels that was quite interesting. Lots of well-known poets contributed poems too.

Any help you can give me on the use of "after" and the information it can signal to those in the know on poem types other than golden shovels will be most appreciated. Then I could use it in a golden shovel as well as in . . . what other kind of poem? And in what manner? And under what circumstances? Thanks in advance.

Olly Buckle

I had never considered 'after' as meaning they had stolen the concepts or words, merely used the same style as a sort of homage. Mind you I am not really very conversant with poetry so I have probably seen it used more in terms of painting and sculpture.


Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I had never considered 'after' as meaning they had stolen the concepts or words, merely used the same style as a sort of homage. Mind you I am not really very conversant with poetry so I have probably seen it used more in terms of painting and sculpture.

Thanks, Olly. I found more information that can help us both in understanding what the word signifies and under what circumstances. Turns out "Voltage" magazine covers the court case of a poet so they talk a little more in depth about the use of the word after the title. I just found the essay and am glad I did.

The essay itself is worth reading so I'll post an informative snip or two then the link to the essay "New Plagiarism Accusations Spark a Twitter Debate on ‘After’ Poems" by By Kat Rosenfield

snip: “can connote anything from “in homage to” or “in conversation with” to “in the style of” or “inspired by” — are sometimes used as cover for laziness or even outright theft.”

snip: “Poetry is a medium in which sampling, allusion, and conversation have always been part of the game.”

Snip: “. . . one person’s genuine attempt at homage can be another’s blatant appropriation.”

Snip: on “after” pieces on contemporary poets and remembering that “. . . dead poets don’t tweet.”


In addition to golden shovels, I also love to write centos. Those have a long tradition and in general are considered legitimate, legal. They're also difficult to write-- it's not easy to make a new poem out of someone else's lines. But it's worthwhile to try to do it. My worry with my own centos is that some editor, one ignorant of the cento tradition, might pick up one of mine and then accuse me of plagiarism. I always use this way of titling them: Title of Poem: Cento to try to alert the editor (or reader) and to be transparent with my selections and intentions.

One time an editor asked me to write a lengthy essay on a topic he wanted covered. I agreed. Then I got a reminder note from the editor while I was still working on the essay and since I'd already written a lot on the topic, to be alert for self-plagiarism. I'd never heard of self-plagiarism. I got a chuckle out of that as I pictured myself in court defending myself against . . . myself. Maybe I'd sue me for up to $150,000 (U.S.), the max if convicted. (I understand the settlement doesn't even go to the one plagiarized, and, the editor had reasons for making me aware of that idea since he wanted totally fresh material. But it's sometimes a strange and even hysterically funny world we live in so it helps sometimes to try to make something fun out of it. Me suing me made me laugh.

Plagiarism is such a complicated notion.

Olly Buckle

I have to admit I have done it myself. I think that Dylan Thomas is often over-rated, (Though I love Under Milkwood), and I am not keen on alcoholics, so I wrote this

Doubting Thomas

'Am not a prince, nor yet was meant to be
Someone's father was enough for me
I grow old, I grow old,
His intrusions are too bold.
"Do not go gentle" he screams like someone mental,
Denying the sunset that will end it all.

A voice of youth whose time has not yet come
Awaits the wren bone introduction to his son.
Bodies old and worn leave willingly,
They are not torn from you and me.
Wild old men, tamed and rocked by moonlight slip
Into the sloe black, slow black darkness and goodnight.

:) Not quite ready to slip off yet though :)

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I wish more poets would join us on this conversation. Olly, I would never consider your interesting poem plagiarism. I doubt that editors would either (those who know their poetry). I recognized your base poem and then see your version, and see nothing "stolen" about it. You're continuing the concept of dealing with death. It's pretty clear what you're doing. In fact, I don't think it would need an "after" following the title-- it's that clear. I might use it if the poem was going for comedy where adding "after" to a poem this clear could enhance the humor.

But as it is, it is not plagiarism or if turns out it truly IS that, then the whole poetry world needs to shut down and we need to get rid of those genius show-offs like Dylan Thomas (or Blake, or Shakespeare).:-D

I see nothing nothing wrong with using someone else's work (especially in the case of a renowned, easily recognizable, deceased poet) with the purpose of changing it considerably. Showing an different point of view. It's like a conversation between poets. The original says something and the reader writes his own poem in response. Which to me is what you did: there's the original (shown and alluded to in your poem) then your poem provides something new or different.-- your poem changes the original considerably. I never wanted to be a prince or princess either but like you I am a common human being dealing with her eventual demise. We common folks can identify well with your version. And we ain't ready to exit yet.:-D

A golden shovel uses every single word of another's poem (or part of another's poem), in order, down the right side of the new poem. A cento "steals" exact lines from another's work-- sometimes a single line from each of 100 poets. It has an old tradition and originally had the requirement of using 100 lines from someone else's work. Now we can write shorter versions.

I'm trying to understand . . . my worry is the way so many quickly decide something's theft or plagiarism. I want to continue writing golden shovels and centos without someone sounding the alarm. on me.-D Rage, rage against the sounding of the siren!:-D
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Olly Buckle

It does occur to me that problems only might arise when you publish, you can write as many as you wish. :)
That makes me think that any publisher worth his salt would warn you of problems before they were problems, unless you self publish.

I saw the mediocre minds of my generation
destroyed by thoughtlessness.
Overfed, unimaginative and stylized
Publicly strutting their stuff
Disconnected by the powders
and pills of unremembered nights
or sat up blank and facing the concrete ...

I quite enjoy this game, but he goes on much too long windedly to take it much further :)

I don't think I know enough poems well enough to do what you do.

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Know what's fun, Olly? Take a haiku, something super short, and turn out a golden shovel where every single word is repeated down the right side (one word, in order, ending each right side line with the other poet's word (just as Terrence Hayes' poem shows). No additional words are allowed anywhere. I warn you, though, this is more difficult than it sounds and further warn you it could turn into an addiction for you. I'm addicted! :-D I've now warned you so my conscience is clear.:-D

This afternoon it suddenly occurred to me, since we now know you're a dirty thief -- joke-- that in your earlier posted poem you've stolen from the bible too. You did NOT invent the name Doubting Thomas.:-D Works great in your poem, too, and is another instance of using another's lines for a new purpose.

I really don't think the editor needs to do the warning. The editor will either publish a poem or won't (according to his/ her own best interests). The poet needs to know what he or she is doing. If one's goal is publishing. (That's my goal and is why I'm trying my best to understand the concept). Poems written in private aren't likely to be accused of anything by anyone.:-D

I'm tryin' my best to get my ducks in a row (alarm: theft of a cliche) on this issue. So often online someone will claim their work's been plagiarized and if explored, turns out someone else wrote something as common as "it's a beautiful day"-- as if once something's written no one else in the world can say those words.:-D I've heard my mom say it, my grandmother say it, who hasn't? We're still allowed to speak, surely!:-D

Wish I had come up with your opening in this poem. I love it. I bet some editors would publish it pretty well as it is-- you took it just far enough for us to catch on you're using Ginsberg for your purpose and you've said what needs to be said. I quickly recognized the Ginsberg (most poets and editors likely would) and just had to read on to see how you used it. Good job.

Olly Buckle

I really liked Ginsberg when I was a teen, saw him at the Albert Hall in 1965, I was twenty then. Then you get past the wonderful sounds he was making with words and realise these were not the 'best minds of his generation', those were people like Martin Luther King, or the guys planning the first space walks, they weren't 'in heaven under the El', they were just losers smashed out of their heads in a slum. 'Kadish for my Mother' was better as I remember, not that I remember that much, I was being one of the smashed losers at the time :)

Olly Buckle

An old silent pond
A frog jumps into the pond—
Splash! Silence again.
Matsuo Basho

No water in the pond,
But no water is no pond.
Then rain comes again.
Olly Buckle

You mean like this ?

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
No, it would need to be this way for a golden shovel:

Take Basho's poem of just eleven words.

Take the first word, "an," and make it your last word on your new first line of poetry (somehow without looking like a nutty poet-- notice how Hayes handled those types of problems). (I recently read a delightful poem about the cardinal sin of ending a line of poetry with "the":-D)

Then take Basho's second word, "old," and use it as the ending word in your second line of poetry.

Then take his third word, "silent," and have it end your third line.

Do the same with "pond"-- use it as your last word on your fourth line.

And so on until you have all eleven of Basho's words, in order, ending every single line of your longer poem down the right side of your new poem. So while his poem is three lines long, yours would be eleven lines long.

Here's a quick and feeble attempt to show you (but my poem will be a miserable addition 'cause I ain't particularly spontaneous when it comes to poetry. My muse doesn't always cooperate. ) Basho's words are highlighted.

The world was too much with us. An
event unfolded which was an old
story that left us all stunned with silent
lament when we heard a war now raged across the pond.


(See "an/ old/ silent/ pond", Basho's first four words, on the right side of the new poem?) Do this until you have used all eleven words.

You don't have to turn out a haiku either. Also, there are exactly three billion zillion and four translations of Basho's poems so find a translation you like and enjoy seeing what you might do with it. (The repetition of "pond" in such a small space might prove too difficult but there's always another translation you can use.)

Your own haiku has great potential as a stand-alone haiku. Your Muse cooperates just fine with you.:-D

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I’ve published couple of poems that were “after”. They were not golden shovels. Although I have never seen a formal definition of the use of “after” in an epigram or dedication, I have always understood it to mean: in the style of and continuing the theme of whatever work the poem is “after”. Like a sequel. So it might repeat some words or paraphrase some lines in some way. I have always understood “after” to refer to a specific poem, not just a poet. But I suppose you could write a poem after a poet, adopting that poet’s style and refer somehow to some notable poems by said author. So “after” means more than “influenced by”, so if you’re going to a theme or even some words, you need to acknowledge the source. But if you are just going to adopt a poet’s style, I’m not so sure that credit is required. That’s why I think “after” refers to a specific poem.

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Right, Tim, and that's what I'm hoping to learn more about-- where and under what circumstances is it customary or even necessary to use "after." What do others (editors, other poets, readers) understand "after" to mean or signify?

To me, a golden shovel, for instance, wouldn't seem to require "after" Hayes includes it so I'd probably be wise to follow his example since he knows a lot more than I do about the poetry world. I should locate Hayes' anthology (temporarily lost in my bookshelves) to see how his contributing poets handled it-- including it or not in their poems. His own poems that I linked us to are clear about his source, and would be clear to almost anyone who's read much poetry. It seems a golden shovel wouldn't require it.

But it doesn't matter what I think, I can think all the wrong things I want to. So this thread is to ask for examples, citations, opinions, discussion about the complexity of legitimately working with someone else's work, links to various types of poems that make use of "after."

I recently entered one of my centos in a poetry contest and those who entered had to list every single source at the bottom of the poem. That cut our allowed poem length in half right there-- since those acknowledgements counted in the total number of lines we could have for our poems. My cento was 12 lines of poem, 12 lines of citations. The contest sponsors were, I think, protecting themselves from false accusations. A couple of years ago I was studying a famous cento and not a single source was cited. But each line most would recall immediately or recall having already heard the line somewhere. It was clear after reading three or four lines, what the poet was up to.

Another concern is the way so many people quickly jump to wrong conclusions because they don't understand much about the subject.

Tim, what were the poem types you published where you used "after" following the title?

Something else just occurred to me. T.S. Eliot used words from many poets in his "The Waste Land" and didn't acknowledge his sources. "After" wouldn't apply in his case because he wasn't following anyone's style -- except for possibly getting his idea on how he might do such a lengthy poem from poet Hope Mirlee,'s poem. (I'm so glad we no longer say "poetess." ) Plus, he had Ezra Pound to help him-- I read Pound cut about 75% of Eliot's poem. And that's pretty well the way Eliot finally published it.

Thanks for adding to the discussion, Tim.

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Pamelyn, one of the poems I published was “after’ Sue Goyette’s poem “#36” in her book “Ocean”. Goyette has a very unique style where she uses figurative language so alien to the images she presents that it is only through the context of the poem that you can make any sense out of it. But it results wild connections. Poem #36 is about going to see an old woman and my poem is about going to see an old blind man. So the influence from her poem was direct and specific. The other poem I published is called “God of Chimneys, after Lorna Crozier’s God of Balconies” . She published a book of poems titled “God of Shadows” and every poem is a prose poem title “God of Something”. So my poem adopted her style and theme. I wrote a dozen or so god-poems in the same style. But ultimately decided that since she had already written the book, I couldn’t really publish a collection of god-poems.

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Thanks, Tim. You already know I adore Lorna Crozier. I've sure said it often enough and you might have caught at least one mention (or ten). I'd love to try "after"-ing something of hers. I'm not skilled enough yet.

OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters just released (tonight, as a matter of fact) a chapbook of their ten best flash fiction/ prose poem pieces published since we first went live. (link:https://ojalart.com/buttonhook-pres...ntroduction-byassociate-editor-pamelyn-casto/ ) It's going to soon be available as print on demand too.

I got to do the selecting, am the editor of the chapbook, and I wrote the introduction. Guess whose work is included? Yep, the great Lorna Crozier. I initially set it up so that we could feature her writing. She gave us five or six pieces, we featured them, and we got to interview her too. She turned out to be a terrific person, in addition to being a terrific poet.

I'm not familiar with Crozier's God of Balconies. (Oh boy, another trip to Amazon.) I'm working on a collection of god poems myself (I collect them from all over the world). I think it could be interesting to readers. (One god I've so far written about is pretty shocking and amazing! Both horrible and wonderful. What a doozy! So I'll keep plugging on that project, especially since my gods aren't "after" Ms Crozier's work at all. As you might recall from one of my live threads now in Met3, I'm working on something similar in an "after"-ing project on the great Anne Carson's work (trying to "after" her Short Talks collection).

I hope you continue your gods project. I saw a couple of your god poems (up for critique) and liked what I saw. What is it with you Canadians, so talented as writers?

Welp, I'll likely be up all night doing some online work I need to finish and getting prepared for some upcoming events that are pretty exciting to me. (And to hit Amazon for Crozier's God of Balconies and Susan Goyette's Ocean.)

Olly Buckle

Mr Murphy is right, after means 'coming later than', so I think a continuation which adds something to the original rather than a reiteration or reproduction.

Thank you, I was quite surprised and pleased by the haiku myself, though I did worry about taking the thread off subject, glad it's back.

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
"Coming later than" is just the definition I have been searching for. That makes more sense and can include many poem types or styles or themes, etc. A cento likely wouldn't need it (but it might require citations in some circumstances). A golden shovel shouldn't need it but it might be wise to include it (as Hayes does) since it's a new form of poetry. Thank you, Olly!

About your off-topic poem (which it turns out wasn't off-topic at all) . . . Your poem had my face lighting in two colors.

It first flashed light red from irritation because a poem was posted in the thread (which often takes the focus off the topic and puts it on the poem).

Then I read it and my face lit up green from envy.

That was some haiku-- give it a tweak or two and I'd bet it would be publishable in any magazine/ journal that publishes haiku. For me, your poem made it much easier for me to explain and understand the overall topic of discussion too. I'm glad you took the risk! I'd bet your face lit up in your favorite color with your haiku. (I'm also glad the admins for the most part keep us on the straight and narrow.) I don't see it as needing "after" either-- in my mind it's definitely a stand-alone piece.

Yes, "coming later than" works really well for what I was hoping to understand about its use. Thank you.

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
I just thought of another instance of legitimate "theft" from another's work for use in one's own. Two of my poems (one won a cash prize and the other was published in a fine magazine in England) made use of the Shakespearean character Caliban. That character worked perfectly for me and hat I was saying in my poems. I didn't invent him, merely borrowed him.

Should I have used "after" in the title or should I have cited Shakespeare in my poems? Of course not. Why not? Because most editors, readers would know what I'm doing and would know it's legitimate. (We can borrow established characters from literature such as Echo, Pygmalion, Zeus, etc.) Others who might not be familiar with The Bard's Caliban would understand what's going on in the pieces from context.

I'm getting it all much straighter in my head now. (Sigh of relief . . . )

So many concepts, so little time.

Olly Buckle

I keep coming back to this in my head, and I don't think that 'after' quite fits with the golden shovel because one uses the complete original poem, it is not merely that it inspired or one is following the style. I can't help feeling it should be 'using'.

PS. from the OP
"You've likely seen poems published with this after the title:

after E. E. Cummings"

I think that should be 'after e. e. cummings' :)
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Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Hey, Olly. I always capitalize E. E. Cummings' name. I read that some editor changed his name to e.e. when the editor published his poem. It caught on., but Cummings never cared for it.

As far as "after" and golden shovels, I think it's appropriate because it can mean more than "inspired by" or "following the style of." It can also mean "honoring" (as Hayes was doing with Gwendolyn Brooks' poem-- that poem inspired him to create his poem. He seemed to me to be following in the style too. But his poem is also entirely new. It makes a lot of sense to me that he uses "after"-- to keep it clear what he's doing. ("After" can also be used when the original poet's poem is satirized.)

A couple of days ago I entered a golden shovel contest with strict rules. The contest insisted on entrants using the original poem title, author as an epigraph under the title of the golden shovel. I think they did it that way because they had to be able to check to see if each entrant use the borrowed poem correctly in their new poem. Having the poem title/ author they could check easily enough (as in the case of some more obscure poem).

Anyway, I plan to use "after" whenever I write a golden shovel. Since the inventor (Hayes) does it that way, I'll do it that way too. (unless some editor or contest says do it otherwise).

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
On this "after" question . . . I'm sending some of my poetry off and wonder if these should use "after" in the titles since all three are making primary use of three other poets' poems.

One poem is titled: The Extinct Flower in the Crannied Wall Speaks.
I am playing off Tennyson's famous poem. But I don't acknowledge him. My poem is from the flower's point of view. I see no need to acknowledge since the title signals who wrote the original (and famous) poem. And I see no need to include "after." Do you?

Another I titled Leda Graduates From Dr. Swann's Sonnet Spell.
This one plays on Yeats's famous "Leda and the Swan." Again, I think the title should signal what's to come in the poem. Yeats' poem's influence would be obvious. This one doesn't seem to require an "after" either but it most certainly is an "after" since it comes after Yeats' poem, it imitates Yeats' poem, and it satirizes Yeats' famous poem. Do you see any need for the "after" designation? Why or why not?

A third I titled Edinburgh, Scotland: A Duet.
In this one I write three stanzas of my impressions of this amazing city and the last line of each stanza is a line from Robert Burns' "Address to Edinburgh." He finishes my stanzas. I put Burns' lines in italics. I see no need to use "after" in this one even though I was inspired by the Burns poem, I am honoring his poem, and mine comes after his poem. It also honors and acknowledges his work as I use his lines. In this poem, so my intentions are clear, I included this at the end of the poem: (*Note: italicized lines are from Robert Burns' "Address to Edinburgh.") Do you think this one needs or doesn't need an "after"?

I'm still confused about when to use "after." But less confused since I first posted my question. Anyone have examples where a famous or highly published poet uses "after" in the title of his/ her poem? What would you say the poem's doing that earns an "after" designation?