Poetry with a Spine


April 17, 2013 by Ray Yanek

I teach a Creative Writing course at the high school where I’m employed, and to keep things fun and somewhat fresh, I’ve delegated Fridays as a day to step outside of the normal curriculum.  The idea is simply to let the students create.  With that end in mind, Fridays alternate between what I call Flash Fridays and Coffee House Fridays.

The Flash Fridays are for students to, I hope, find a sudden flash of inspiration, and to write in whatever genre they choose. Students then read their flash pieces on the Coffee House Fridays, or if their nerves get the best of them, I’ll read for them.

Currently we’ve been working through a unit that revolves around blending words with images, for example graphic novels and stories told through photos and captions, so I was looking for something a little different to try on a Flash Friday.

I did.  And I’m very happy with how it turned out.  We took our cell phone cameras down to the library and tried our hand at creating some Book Spine Poetry.  I would like to say that I came up with this idea, but I didn’t.  I’ve seen examples of this all over the internet and Pinterest… err, I mean on my wife’s Pinterest account, not mine.  I probably just glanced over to her computer while browsing the Bass Pro catalogue…

Anyway, the project is simple: you choose a variety of books and use the titles to create works of poetry.  You stack the books either one on top of the other and read from the top down, or line up the books side by side and read from left to right.

Below are a few examples I created for the students to use as models.  The books were taken from the school library, my classroom, and my bookshelves at home.  Actually, the student projects were much better and I would, eventually, like to show those off here, but I need to figure out how all the legal things work first.

So for now, take a peek at my examples and see what you think!  Maybe even give it a try yourself and let me see your results.


American Gods

              The Magician’s Nephew

     The Color of Magic

              Killing the Shadows


When We Wake

                                  January First

                                  World War Z

IMAG0098 crop

Promise Me

          Darkness, My Old Friend

Hard Revolution

         When the Thrill is Gone


The Third Man and The Fallen Idol

           Mooring Against the Tide

           A Separate Peace

Book Spine Poetry

The Sound and the Fury

30 Days to the ACT Assessment

Prairie State Writing Coach

          My Lobotomy


 American Gods by Neil Gaiman                                 When We Wake by Karen Healey

 The Magician’s Nephew  by C.S. Lewis                      January First by Micheal Schofield

 The Color of Magic  by Terry Pratchett                      World War Z by Max Brooks

 Killing the Shadows by Val McDermid                       Promise Me by Harlan Coben

Darkness My Old Friend by Lisa Unger 

Hard Revolution by George Pellacanos

When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley

The Third Man and The Fallen Idol by Graham Greene

Mooring Against the Tide by Jeff Knoor and Time Schell

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

30 Days to the ACT Assessment

Prairie State Writing Coach

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully


3 thoughts on “Poetry with a Spine

  1. dulzimordash says:

    Reblogged this on Nature’s Abhorred Vacuum.

  2. Great Work! Poetry is Coming Back to Life to set things write in the universe!
    It all began with this: according to Smock, “The U.S. Treasury Department–which, among other things, handles cases of treason–recently warned American publishers against translating poetry from Iran. Such translations, they avowed, would be considered ‘trading with the enemy,’ and would be punishable by fines and jail time.” Since World War Two, strong cryptographic algorithms have been classified as munitions and banned from export outside the U.S. Why, going further, would the import of a different intellectual commodity with seemingly far less practical application be considered treasonous? Why ban poetry?…http://k2globalcommunicationsllc.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/stop-the-stoooopid/

  3. P Liegl says:

    Gotta love it! Esp. Thirty Days to ACT to PSAE Writing Coach to Lobotomy!!!!!

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