One of my favorite kinds of found poetry is the Book Spine Poem. Tonight I made one entirely out of a few of the poetry books in my personal library.
If you’re not familiar with this form, the idea is to make a poem out of the titles of books. Once you see one, it’s perhaps easier to get the idea. So here’s mine (with my arranged and punctuated text below):
Every year the library at my school has a Book Spine Poetry contest during April; I’m the judge. Every year I’m delighted and amazed at the incredible creations our students and faculty come up with.
This year we had a 1st Place winner and an Honorable Mention at the faculty level. They’ve given me permission to share theirs with you.
The Honorable Mention went to a BSP by Kate Lambert, who made a poignant comment on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey — the effects of which are still being felt by many, many people in our city and in our school community.
And the 1st Place winning Book Spine Poem goes to Harlan Howe, not only because it’s really good, but also because it is the longest BSP I’ve ever seen that was still coherent and cohesive. You don’t normally see ones nearly this long still be making any sense by the end.
If you have any book spine poems — they really are easier than they seem like they should be — just go to a bookshelf and start picking out phrases randomly until something catches — please feel free to post them in the comments below or send them to me.
My posting today is quite late because tonight I took my AP Gothic Lit. students on a field trip: a ghost tour.
Yes, it was just as interesting as it sounds. No, I was not the tour guide. Yes, there was a lot of history. No, no one ended up possessed. Yes, I did get some really cool pictures of orbs.
In honor of tonight’s generally harmless spookiness, I’m posting a book spine poem from this past year’s Hallowe’en mantel. Ever since my husband built me one a few years ago, I have taken great joy in decorating my mantel for the holidays. The Hallowe’en mantel is, so far, my most elaborate. Because the mantel is in our library (which is another way of saying the-room-which-most-people-would-call-a-living-room-but-we-didn’t-put-the-television-in-there-and-instead-lined-the-walls-with-bookshelves-and-then-filled-them-with-our-books), I always make book spine poems as part of it.
If you’ve never seen a book spine poem, you’re in for a treat. These are a special kind of found poem that should become immediately obvious as soon as you see one.
Please feel free to make your own book spine poems and post pictures of them here in the comments section. That would, in fact, make my day!
I’m decorating my house for Hallowe’en today, and every year I do a fun mantel which includes some book spine poetry. I try to mix it up each year with different poems. Here are this season’s offerings:
And in honor of all the actual witches working in service each month in the protection of our country with their bindings:
And one more poem, just because it’s up on my mantel, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with witches:
And so today, as promised, two poems since I missed posting one yesterday.
Book spine poetry is a marvelous thing. Once you see an example, it’s probably pretty easy to figure out how it works. You just use the titles of books as your lines. I suppose you could consider it a type of found poetry.
Every April at my school, the library holds a contest to see who can come into the stacks and “find” the best book spine poems. Here are the two winners from the faculty/staff category this year.
Have you made any book spine poems lately? If so, please send me a picture of it or post it (if you can) in the comments below!
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know that during National Poetry Month I like to do some sort of month-long celebration of verse. Sometimes it has taken the form of a poem contest. The last couple of years, I’ve curated a Poem-a-Day series, which has been hugely fun. This year I want to do a little of this, a little of that, to reflect the enormous variety of things to appreciate about poetry. I will never be able to present everything in a month, but that’s okay.
Today will be the first of probably a fair few Book Spine Poems, because I love them. If you’ve not heard of this phenomenon before, BSPs are found poems made by putting the titles on the spines of books together. Every year at my school, the librarian and I sponsor a Book Spine Poetry Contest for the high school students, and frequently one of our teachers, IT wizard Harlan Howe, “primes the pump” on the first day with a BSP of his own. They’re usually really, really good and so entertaining, and this year’s is no exception.
I’d love to know what you’re doing for National Poetry Month, if anything. If you’d like to share your own poems with me and possibly have them show up here on my blog (I still have a few spots for this month left open), please email me at email@example.com with your poem and the subject line “Poem-a-Day series” so it doesn’t get lost in my inbox or spam filter.
So if I must be brutally honest, Harlan Howe is not usually (to the best of my knowledge), regularly, a poet. He’s awesome at computers and tech and teaching, but poetry isn’t his main line of work.
We had a Book Spine Poetry at school this month, though, and his entry was really good, and so I wanted to share it with you. Remember, Book Spine Poetry is a relatively easy game that takes very little time to play. If you do it, I really want to know! Send me a .jpg of yours to my email address: forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com. Put “Books Spine Poem” in the title, and I’ll feature it on my blog.
And here’s the text of it, in case the picture isn’t clear:
the world’s strongest librarian
a case of exploding mangoes
in the stacks
No! I don’t want to join a book club
You are probably familiar with the concept of Book Spine Poetry by now. It all started, if my research is correct, with Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project over twenty years ago. The basic premise is that you make a little poem out of the titles on the spines of books. I love this form and plan to feature several of them in my National Poetry Month series this year. Here’s one I put together tonight.
I don’t normally use more than one book by the same author in a single Book Spine Poem, but tonight it just worked out that way.
drinking coffee elsewhere
four sisters, all queens
happy to be here
I’d love for you to share your Book Spine Poetry with me. Consider this your formal invitation to do so! Maybe it will even be included in this series. Please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Book Spine Poem” in the subject line.
We had a lot of great entries in the Book Spine Poetry Contest. First, I want to thank everyone who participated! I hope you enjoyed playing as much as I enjoyed seeing your poems. Second, as promised, here are all the entries (listed in no particular order) so you can all enjoy them, too. I’ve transcribed the lines of the poems in the captions in case you have difficulty reading some of the spines in the photos.
Three from Lauren Nagel:
from Paula Billups:
from Maia Almeida-Amir:
from Cindy Clayton (who also provided with her entry a text version with her intended punctuation, so I’ll use that for the caption):
from Laine Little (entitled “Raising My Teen”):
There you have it! If you sent me an entry and don’t see it here, I apologize. Please email me right away so we can sort it out.
Now, part of the reason it took me so long to get this post done has to do with my being out of town for a few days during an unusually busy time at school and having to play catch-up all week. But part of it is that, frankly, I can’t really decide who has won! So many of these poems are just fantastic.
So I’m putting the fate of this contest in your hands, dear readers. Below is a poll in which YOU decide which are the best entries! The poems are listed by their first lines. Polling will be open until the evening of Monday, May 20th. I’m going to try and set this up so you can vote each day, if you want to, to make this sort of like approval voting. First, second, and third place entries will win a prize! Winners will be announced the week polling ends.
Thank you for voting! Please spread the word to others to do so.