Book spine poetry for World Poetry Day

Today, 21 March, is World Poetry Day. It was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1999.


So why am I showing you a stack of books… and none of them poetry? Well, this is my little offering of ‘book spine poetry’. If you’ve not been introduced, book spine poetry is a kind of ‘found poetry’, an assemblage of interesting words lifted from unrelated, existing texts… such as the titles of books.

See how it works? I looked at my shelves, selected titles that seemed to work together, and ordered them so that when you read the titles down the stack, you get:

Going on faith
the people speak,
the anguish of Tibet,
the lost
circle of protest,
the future of history
Tibet, my story,

Poetry! Or something like it. Fun. Creative. And it has never been easier to do re-writes – just rearrange your stack of titles! A low-pressure literary activity, great for classrooms. And great for procrastinating writers. Yes, I speak from experience; this picture of my book spine poem is actually from 2013, when I was supposed to be writing my PhD dissertation. (A friend pointed out that, of course, my poem would include a Lonely Planet guide! Mind you, hers did too.)

For those of you who Tweet, apparently there is a hashtag for #bookspinepoetry. View others or post an image of your own ephemeral masterpiece!

And if you want to track the phenomenon back to (possibly?) its quirky origins, see artist Nina Katchadourian’s clever ‘Sorted Books’ project, which began in 1993.

There you have it. Enjoy World Poetry Day, friends. Read poems aloud and with gusto. Listen to someone else read. Raise a glass to a poet, or better yet buy one of their slim, shimmering collections. And maybe craft a book spine poem or two of your own. Oh, go on. You know you want to.

— Angie

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