Finding Poetry on Book Spines

I’ve written a lot on found poetry. It’s a whole chapter in my book, Raw Art Journaling, and I love doing it as part of my artwork. It combines collage and creative accident, which is an irresistible combination for me.

One of my bookcases screamed for order yesterday. I have a horrible habit of storing books in the order I read them. This is not a well-thought out organization, although something that works for me in year-long segments.

After a year, the relationship of my life, the books, and creative activity begins to sift out only important ideas and I have to shelve books by topic.

So, to organizing. I picked up two books and looked at the titles and laughed. Smart books! Reading it from left to right it said, “The story of your life, solved by sunset.” My disorganization had created a type of found poetry on the spines of book. Book Spine Poetry. It was love at first read.

You have to use a dollop of imagination, because the titles don’t often start with words that tie sentences together. No matter. I scooped up another handful and shuffled them into another order. Mixing non-fiction and fiction creates even more interest, and before I knew it, an hour had flown by. No regret. Some books get used more than others. Some books have the names spelled out vertically on their spines. No matter. It’s still words.

Clearly this works best if you have a huge collection of books, but it also works fine in the library (a librarian will ask you what you are doing photographing books, make sure you have the answer prepared).

Here is some Book Spine Poetry, with the poem written out beneath each photo, each title starting with a capital letter, so you don’t have to squint.

“I could do anything: Distant healing, Beyond words. Shamans of the world.”

“The story of your life. Art from intuition, The 1,000 journal project.
Places left unfinished at the time of creation.”

“The Zen of seeing Signs of life. The desert smells like rain. Wabi-sabi simple.”

The dry grass of August, After the fire. The brief history of the dead? Saint Maybe.”

The odd woman, Wild mind. Resonate: Creating time, Courageous dreaming.

Want to play along? Photograph the books, put them on your website or blog, link to this blog, and send me the link in the comment section. Please don’t send titles you’ve made up, or ones without photos. The photo makes it come to life.  The fun is in using what is at hand. Have a big CD collection? Use those instead.

Oh, and even without checking,  I’m sure I’m not the first to discover this. So please, send links to other sites only if they show clever book spine poetry. Deflating proof that I’m not first or school-marmish declarations that you used this idea with your kids 30 years ago are acknowledged and not disputed, but will be deleted.  I’m looking for more book spine poetry, that’s the fun.

Final note that no one will notice:  The photograph that delights me the most (multiple delights will create a random choosing) will receive a copy of my book, Raw Art Journaling, but the link has to be your site. Links to someone else’s site gets too complicated. I’ll splurge for shipping to the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, UK, and Europe if it’s necessary.

WINNER! There were too many that delighted me–so I wrote the names of 10 wonderful entries on index cards and let my cat walk across them. The first and last ones he stepped on were the winners–Andria of DrawingNear blogspot and Paula in Buenos Aires, you won a copy of my book Raw Art Journaling! Books will ship when I get back from  teaching at Valley Ridge, the week of May 7.

–Quinn McDonald is easily delighted with found poetry of any kind. It makes being awake more interesting, more alive, more aware.

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42 responses to “Finding Poetry on Book Spines

  1. thank you Quinn! It has been an amazing experience…
    Here are some of my first experiments :
    http://artevolutions.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/following-inspiration-from-quinns-finding-poetry-on-book-spines/

    Lizzie:)

  2. What a great exercise, Quinn! I had a great time trying it out, and blogged about my poems here: http://andria-drawingnear.blogspot.com/2012/04/finding-poems-on-spines-of-books.html
    As I mention in my post, I used to do a few versions of Found Poetry with my students when I was a high school English teacher, and it always yielded amazing results; the kids really responded well to it.

  3. Taking note of your books, I´d love to read some of them. :)
    Going to have a look at my bookcase now.

  4. Reblogged this on artevolutions and commented:
    This is beyond amazing and so inspirational…A new life for books and wordds and our power to create meaning!!!

  5. what very inspirational!!! gotta share and star experiment:) thank you Quinn!!!

  6. I had way too much fun with this!! So far they are still somewhat (not totally) random, but as I pull more off the shelf, they will be more thoughtful.
    http://airynothing.net/Blogs/photos/found-poetry/
    Of course, now I just want to go read!

  7. Well, that was fun . . . and I enjoyed reading the others as well.
    http://latestartstudio.wordpress.com/

  8. I didn’t mean to try this, but I walked past a bookcase and suddenly I was hooked… A few of my favorites are posted here:
    http://dianebecka.com/found-poetry/

  9. I’ve always struggled with found poetry using a page of a book, but I love this kind of found poetry! I had a limited library, so I used a few titles more than once. And came up with a desert trilogy! Very fun! Thanks for the great idea.

    http://www.seededearth.com/2012/04/23/living-the-desert-life-a-summary-in-book-spine-poetry/

  10. Pingback: Living the Desert Life – A Summary in Book Spine Poetry « Seeded Earth – Bo Mackison

  11. You are really good! Did you know that THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST is a phrase in a poem by Robert Penn Warren, “Star-Fall!”

    Really enjoyed this column, and thanks for including my novel

    A.J. (Author of THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST)

    • OMG! How wonderful of you to stop by! I knew about the Robert Penn Warren poem only from the 2011 publicity surrounding the Sir Walter Raleigh Award. I’m a big fan of Evening Hawk. Your book was so beautifully written. Thanks for the time and effort that you poured into it.

  12. What a great activity. I may not get any “work” work done today, but I’m in a much better mood now. Here are two of my efforts: http://cafenowhere.livejournal.com/260332.html

  13. Argh, now I can’t get this out of my head!

    If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler
    On The Road
    Seeing Julia
    Asking For Trouble
    Stopped at Stalingrad
    Julia
    Rescued

  14. I have had fun with these in the past. I’m linking to one I did, which in turn has a link to an article / challenge in the Guardian, which is where I got the idea from.

    (The ‘finding poetry’ site is mine though I’m not currently doing much with it… just wanted to start organising resources on what really is a fascinating topic.)

    http://findingpoetry.com/post/11565839436/lines-of-life-hidden-lives-the-pain-of

    • Isn’t found poetry so interesting? I was surprised when someone who reviewed my book on amazon said they hated it and I spent too much time on the topic in the book.Thanks for leaving yours, it’s a very well-done one!

  15. I don’t have physical books any more, but these popped into my mind:
    Don’t Make Me Think (by Steve Krug)
    About Schmidt (by Louis Begley)
    It was a Long Time Ago And It Never Happened Anyway (by David Satter)

    and

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
    It Was A Dark And Stormy Night, Snoopy (Charles Shulz)
    So Much For That (Lionel Shriver)
    Go the F**k to Sleep (Adam Mansbach)

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