What is a Book Spine Poem?

alex atkins bookshelf booksA book spine poem is a rather clever creation. It is a poem that is created by stacking books on top of one another, so that the titles on the spine create successive lines of the poem as you read from top to bottom. The concept of the book spine poem began with Nina Katchadorian’s Sorted Book project in 1993. Katchadorian explains her art project this way: ” I sort through a collection of books, pull particular titles, and eventually group the books into clusters so that the titles can be read in sequence. The final results are shown either as photographs of the book clusters or as the actual stacks themselves, often shown on the shelves of the library they came from. Taken as a whole, the clusters are a cross-section of that library’s holdings that reflect that particular library’s focus, idiosyncrasies, and inconsistencies.” Here is one of her book spine poems, titled “Primitive Art”:

Primitive Art
Just Imagine
Picasso
Raised by Wolves

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Oxford English Dictionary’s first completed edition (the 12 volumes, containing 15,487 pages, defined 414,825 words were published on April 19, 1928), writer, self-professed “swivel-chair linguist,” and book spine poet Stan Carey created a special poem, titled “Walking Word by Word”:

Caught in the Web of Words
The Loom of Language
The Stuff of Thought
The Story of Writing
A Line Made by Walking
Word by Word
Thought the Language Glass

See how easy it is? As you can see, rhyming is not required. So grab a half dozen books from your bookshelf and let your creative muse guide you to create your own book spine poem. You can share your poem and find hundreds of examples on the internet by simply searching “book spine poetry.”

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Read related posts: What is an Abecedarian Poem?
The Poem I Turn To
Poems that Inspire: Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

For further reading: http://www.ninakatchadourian.com/languagetranslation/sortedbooks.php
https://public.oed.com/blog/1928-year-of-the-dictionary/
https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/book-spine-poem-walking-word-by-word/


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