Spine Poems

I first encountered book spine poems at Stan Carey’s blog, Sentence First. He’s been at it since at least 2010, inspired by artist Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project, which she began back in 1993.

In early 2018, I composed nine book spine poems, built from titles from my poetry collection. I posted them at my blog every few days during the month of April (National Poetry Month and all that).

In the summer of 2022, I built five more, this time using books of every genre from all over the house, since I was in the process of unpacking my library after moving into our house.

April 2018


The novice insomniac, sleeping
with the dictionary, calling a wolf
a wolf…

My vocabulary did this to me.

Novice Insomniac


Oceanic codes,
appearing in
the middle distance
above the river, tug
the great enigma from
one life to another.

Oceanic Codes


Stealing sugar
from the castle,
playing the black
piano, passing
through broken
hierarchies: the heart

          is strange.

Stealing Sugar


Bedouin of the London
evening, nobody’s
Ezekiel, seeing

things of no country
I know. Things

stirring together
or far away, imaginary
vessels, terrible blooms.



Locusts at the edge of
summer, harping on all day.

Permanent red blood:
tin, straw, ashes.

For breakfast: scrambled
eggs and whiskey.



Mermaids in the basement
howl ravishing disunities: these
are not sweet girls.



Overtime field work,
temporary help:
why aren’t you at work?



“Spring shade, spring essence.”
Song of the departed stranger.

Music, imitations, illuminations.

To be the poet even in quiet
places: Turtle Island, Flower
Wreath Hill, backroads
to far towns…

Spring Shade

Nine: hay(na)ku

The widening spell
of the

my life corrupted
into song.

unattainable earth where
now, as

testimony is music
beginning with

Widening Hay(na)ku

July 2022

Ten: American Story

born standing up
waking up american
growing up absurd
loitering at the mountains
of madness teaching
a stone to talk
coming home

American Story #1


come dance with me
under the volcano
through the eye
of a needle beyond
the aspen grove

Come Dance with Me


In such hard times, this
is how you lose her: linger
awhile under the dome, gathering
the desert in the heart of
the heart of the country. Meander,
spiral, explode (etc, etc).

Die, my love.

This is How

Thirteen: American Story

Amusing ourselves
to death in the American tree.
Out of our minds together.

And by ourselves
— neither here nor there —
must we mean what we say?

American Story #2

Fourteen: Quiet Hope

the grain
— but beautiful

the day
— reluctantly seeking
the cave, finding them
gone a year
from Monday

forgetting that thin, wild
mercury sound: quiet hope
in the dark — but

  is it art?

Quiet Hope