Book Spine Poetry

I came across book spine poetry a few years ago and was blown away by its concept. Book spine poetry is placing spines of books so that they read like a sentence(s) or a poem.

The concept of book spine poetry appeared in 1993 with Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books Project. Katchadourian began collecting interesting titles and arranging them in clusters to create a column of poetry.

Since the time I started doing the book spine poetry, I wished I could create one in a book store (or a library). The reason is simple… the book titles in these 2 places simply outnumber the ones in my book cupboard. (Oh, I do have a pretty decent collection of books, though!)

But, this wish of mine never materialized for these 2 reasons…

(1) I usually go to a book store for buying a last minute gift for someone, so time is a constraint.
(2) Creating book spine poetry is a time consuming process. On a busy day at a bookstore, if I went about looking at the titles in all sections and made piles of books, I am sure the store guys would call the security to throw me out. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but I am sure, they’d not appreciate it.

Few years ago, I had a connecting flight from Pune to Jaipur via Delhi with a stopover of 4 hours at Indira Gandhi International Airport T3 Terminal. A deserted book store at 2 am, with a sleepy sales guy was simply a perfect opportunity to make my dream come true. I gathered books and arranged them in a pile, added or removed books, for quite some time until the sales guy at the counter woke up from his slumber and looked at me curiously. I explained and he liked the idea and read my incomplete story with book spines aloud. He looked around to add his inputs but gave up after a minute and went back to fiddling with his phone.

After craning my neck at a weird angle to read the book titles for half an hour or so, I came up with this book spine poetry…

Spine Poetry

It reads like this…

When I was 25, single in the city, one day in the season of rain

An interview with self – thinking fast and slow – unthink

waking up…

I can see clearly now.

Dont die with your music still in you.

If truth be told… dont marry before you are 30.

Did you like it?

I created another book spine poetry, rather a story, with my collection of books, this morning.

Here it is…

Book Spine Poetry

It reads like this…

Dear John. Before I say goodbye, I’ll be seeing you, after the darkness, on the street where you live.

We need to talk about Kevin.

The nightmare is for real.

The innocent wife,


PS I love you.

Which one did you like the most?

In case you are interested in creating book spine poetry with your collection of books, here are the steps to create one.

Four Steps to Create Book Spine Poetry

Step 1: Browse through a lot of book spines and choose one or two that spark your interest or that speak to your heart.

Step 2: Find other book spines that complement your first choice. Don’t edit yet – grab any spines that you think may work! Stop when you have 6-8 books.

Step 3: Start playing with combinations of spines, swapping and changing the order. Don’t settle with your first try! Try putting your poem together like a puzzle and explore how changing the order changes the meaning of your poem.

Step 4: Read your poem aloud to yourself. When it sounds right, snap a photo of your completed poem.

Happy creating!

Did you like the concept of Book Spine Poetry? Do share your thoughts in the comment section below.