I learned how to create book spine poetry by perusing Instagram several years ago when I noticed the hashstag #bookspinepoetry. It was great fun but incredibly challenging!
My bookshelf may have more books on it about “how to read poetry” than actual books of poetry. I’m scared to count, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m not a great student of poetry, but I do try.
Nevertheless, April is National Poetry Month so what better time to spark some creativity into the ol’ bookshelves?
What is Book Spine Poetry?
Book spine poetry is poetry made by using the spines of books – their titles – for the lines. This post from the Know Your Meme website provides the history of the idea from its inception as a photography project in 1993 to its various forms and locations on the internet and social media today.
5 Steps to Create Book Spine Poetry
- Check out the hashtag #bookspinepoetry on whatever social media platform you are on and get some inspiration. Get those creative juices flowing! Or, check out this page online at BookBub to get some ideas.
- Scan your shelves to see what titles stick out to you. Pay particular attention to those that begin with an article (a/an/the) and those that do not. You likely won’t want to start every line with “the” so knowing what mix you have is a good place to start. What books have action words in the titles?
- Think about what kind of poem you’d like to create. My first attempt emerged after considering ideas of conflict/peace. The ones that I’m working on for April 2021 have come from other places. In one case I want to make a somewhat silly poem that has a childlike quality to it. In another case I want to express some ideas about Christianity that have been floating in my head. Currently I’m trying to figure out if I can make anything work with either alliteration or an acrostic. The ideas are endless.
- Group your books, either in your head or in a pile, according to theme. If you have a lot of silly books, put those together. A lot of romantic books, group those. Or you could try arranging them by number of words in the title…or maybe just a stack of titles with one word would be easier. If you have a lot of books about war or love or health or cities or whatever….make a stack.
- Start stacking. You can make a poem with as few as two titles and as many as you like.
Who Can Create Book Spine Poetry?
The short answer: anyone.
You can do this at home if you have a home library.
You can consider the bookstacks at your local library and have some fun pulling poetry together.
If you have a school library this might be a fun activity with a group. Teachers could challenge students to a contest (and use it to generate conversations about poetry – win!).
How about an example? I started this one thinking that it would be somewhat silly. It turned out to be a little more serious than I expected. I guess it’s hard not to be serious when “What are We Doing Here?” is the final question.
Questions for Digging Deeper
Create space for intentional learning while you take on a book spine challenge. Keep these questions in mind and see what interesting answers emerge.
- How does using book titles to create lines of poetry enhance the outcome of creating a poem?
- In what ways does using book titles challenge your creative expression with poetry?
- Was this project easier or more difficult than you expected? Why?
- Did you notice anything unusual about titles or themes from your bookshelves that you would not have considered otherwise?
Book Spine Poetry Challenge Level
If you want to take your book spine poetry to the next level, add one or more of these parameters.
- Make it rhyme
- Create an acrostic
- Try to use alliteration in your poem
Now it’s your turn! Let me know how you use this idea in your home, your classroom, or your social media accounts! Follow me on Instagram to see more of my book spine poetry attempts.
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