How to Create Book Spine Poetry

Book Spine Poetry

Have you heard of “book spine poetry?” It’s a kind of poetry that you don’t really write from scratch – instead, you “find” it by arranging book titles to make a poem. This type of poem can be serious or funny, just like in regular poetry.

Here’s the basic idea. Imagine that you’re sitting at a table with all of these books in front of you:

  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • Goodnight Moon
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Good Night, Gorilla
  • Stone Soup

To make a book spine poem, you would start by moving these books around into stacks with the spines together so that the titles are like the lines of a poem. You would keep moving the book titles around into different stacks until you find the “lines” that go best together to make a poem. For example, one set of titles might describe a story:

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Where the Wild Things Are

In this story, if you let the pigeon drive the bus, you might end up going a lot of unexpected places.

Here is a different kind of story:

Green Eggs and Ham
Stone Soup
The Very Hungry Caterpillar

In this story, the caterpillar is hungry because the only food to eat is stuff that doesn’t taste very good.

Another way that you can use book titles to make a poem is to create an imaginary conversation, as in this very short example:

Good Night, Gorilla
Goodnight Moon

For inspiration and other examples, check out these websites where other people have posted pictures of their book spine poems:

Okay, ready to make your own book spine poetry?

First, you’ll need some books. The best place to create book spine poetry is in a library, where you’ll have access to all the books you need!

Next, you’ll need a pencil and paper. Choose one small area of the library to work in, so that you don’t get overwhelmed. If you tried to use all of the book titles in the whole library, it might take you weeks to write your poems!

Walk around the small area that you’ve chosen, looking for interesting book titles, and write down the best ones. (It’s probably not a good idea to pull down every single book that has a good title, which would make a huge pile for the poor librarian to put away later.) As you write down titles, you might notice some that seem to go together to tell a funny or interesting story.

Once you have an idea which books you’ll need for three or four poems, then it’s time to actually pull out those books and set them on a table. You’ll be able to move around the books in order to change the order of the titles until you find the arrangement that sounds the best. If there is a missing “line” in your poem, it’s okay to use the card catalog or ask a librarian for help in locating a book title that would be just right.

When you have several finished book spine poems, you can document them by taking pictures. If you come up with some good ones, I’d love to see them and perhaps post them with this lesson. Click here to contact me and I’ll tell you how to email your pictures.

Book Spine Poetry

Kenn Nesbitt
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